Stranding of Small Cetaceans with Missing Fins Raises Concerns on Cetacean Conservation in Ecuador: Bycatch or Targeted Fisheries? Int J Fisheries Sci Res 2(1): 1006. 2018
Pedro J JimeÌnez, Juan JoseÌ Alava, Cristina Castro, Jorge Samaniego and Patricia Fair
Among anthropogenic threats to marine mammals, bycatch is one of the major and increasing concerns. This report describes three species of small cetaceans, including a short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), and two dwarf sperm whales (Kogia sima), which were found stranded with pectoral fins, dorsal fins and caudal fin removed. The dolphins were found at the beaches of San JoseÌ de Las NunÌƒez and San Pablo, respectively (Santa Elena Peninsula Province on 14 August 2017), while the dwarf sperm whales were found in Puerto LopeÌz and Crucita (ManabiÌ Province) in July 2014 and August 2015, respectively. Possible explanation for the dolphins and dwarf sperm whales missing fins support the event as a possible case of fishery interaction or bycatch with systematic removal of their fins. Although remnants of artisanal gillnets were not found near the two dolphin species, one of the dwarf sperm whales showed marks of artisanal gillnets on the body as evidence of bycatch. Trade of dolphin carcasses and their parts for bait by fishers cannot be ruled out as there is some evidence of this practice in the past. Both dolphins species are vulnerable species at the national level and commonly involved in incidental captures with gillnets of artisanal fisheries in Coastal Ecuador. Cetacean bycatch is a grave conservation problem affecting several cetacean species in Ecuadorâ€™s waters. Fisheries and environmental authorities must be vigilant and enforce actions to proactively mitigate possible anthropogenic impacts and promote environmental education activities in fishing communities to conserve vulnerable dolphin species in Ecuadorâ€™s waters. Further, to comply with new rules and regulations of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) intended to reduce the bycatch of marine mammals in foreign commercial fishing operations that export fish and fish products to the United States, a regulatory program is urgently needed to mitigate and reduce fisheries interactions with marine mammals in Ecuador.