Marine technology reaches the Amazon: Pingers as an opportunity to address the interaction between dolphins and fishermen

Posted on 24 October 2023
From the sea to the river. The freshwater of the Peruvian Amazon is the new scenario where fishermen, species and science will use successful acoustic technology promoted in the Pacific to conserve dolphins, while seeking to promote good fishing practices.

The protagonists of the rivers, the fishermen, face various challenges to safeguard the sustainability of the resource. One of them is the constant interaction with river dolphins, in conditions of competition for the availability of fish. In Ucayali, although there is commercial fishing of more than 60 varieties of fish, according to PRODUCE, the climatic conditions and the need to update production regulations in this area make coexistence difficult.

It is in this context that, based on the leadership of the fishermen's associations, a demonstration of the use of tools known as “pingers” was carried out for the first time in the Amazonian rivers of Pucallpa, in collaboration with the Regional Environmental Authority of Ucayali. (ARAU), Regional Production Directorate of Ucayali (DIREPRO Ucayali) and WWF Peru. This activity was carried out within the framework of the "I Workshop for the prevention and reduction of bycatch of river dolphins and good fishing practices".

“In the Peruvian sea, a reduction in the bycatch of species has been demonstrated in more than 200 experimental hauls in fishing communities. The Amazon basin represents the home, main means of food, niche of legends and source of work for thousands of Peruvians. Experimenting in the Amazon with this technology that has been successful in the sea is a great opportunity to seek comprehensive solutions,” said Shaleyla Kelez, Wildlife Program Leader at WWF Peru.

At an acoustic level, the science of this instrument allows dolphins to receive alerts that predict their approach to fishing nets. Pingers emit sounds at a frequency that only dolphins can detect thanks to echolocation, understood as the process by which they emit sounds and receive the echo to determine the location of objects in space. In this way, the risk of bycatch is reduced.

Both fishermen and river dolphins play a fundamental role in achieving ecosystem balance and the financial sustainability of families, which is why it is necessary to commit to good fishing practices and mitigate the decline in populations of species not suitable for human consumption. . According to Kelez, in the sea there has been a reduction in the bycatch of dolphins in curtain nets of up to 50% since this technology began to be implemented in 2019.

“This is a call to action to continue with the commitment and coordination between fishermen, researchers, decision makers and civil society. We must continue joining efforts for the sustainability of the Amazon,” Kelez mentioned.