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Myanmar's dolphin and fisherman are doubling in a one-of-a-kind partnership as fishing populations shrink.
When twilight falls over the Ayeyarwady rivulet, the rubber-like silhouette of the flippers breach the fin. Some of the porpoises we were expecting to find half an hours downstream have shown up at our front door and are only a few metres away from a tea house on the riverbank, almost as if they had listened to us the night before while planning with the fisher.
Here, on a section of the Ayeyarwady River just south of Mandalay, 26 delphins and fishers from six towns have made a singular connection - they go angling together. "The Ayeyarwady has been teaching us this custom since we were young," said 54-year-old U Maung Lay, a renowned champion of co-operative-fishery.
With a pointed cane he knocks on the side of his wood vessel to summon the sharks while making a weird coo. Today fishers are complaining about the decline in fishery resources. Irwaddy - the dolphin is known for the former colonisation of the dolphin and is threatened with extinction. Only Myanmar's Ayeyarwady and Mekong Rivers in Cambodia and the Mahakam have them.
"In electroshock fisheries, fishers take a vehicle pack and two rods, put them in irrigation waters and slaughter the catfish, drug them or slaughter them and then shovel them up," says Alex Diment, a chief technology advisor to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). However, Myanmar's conservationist community has received good recent reports, with a February poll of 76 Ayeyarwady River dolphin numbers, up from 69 last year and the highest registered number.
"We are very, very pleased because this is an indication of our nature protection performance," said a smile from Naing Lin, WCS co-ordinator in Myanmar. "It' great for us working on the Ayeyarwady to see this, because.... if there are more of them, we can depend on each other more," he said.
"It teaches the little ones to capture smaller catches, and they bring them along so their kids can eat," U Maung Lay said lovingly with the same Myanmar term for a mankind. Myanmar's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation Society supports these co-operative fishermen' communities in implementing a restricted ecotourism programme.
Visitor pays about 40 dollars for a co-operative fisherman rally, which is limited to two hrs a days in order not to burden the cetaceans. "We have never seen anything like it and it is mad to think that they help fishers to catch something," he said. The Myanmar government has declared a second sanctuary further up the river, which is being boosted by the recovering populations of bottlenose dolphins and ecotourism.
The Ayeyarwady River has three different dolphin populations, divided by river boundaries, but only the nearest group to Mandalay are people. "There are other municipalities now interested in how co-operative fisheries work," said Mr Diment. "Several of the seasoned co-operative fishers who learned this skill from their dads and grandads are now traveling to other towns and assisting other fishers.... to catch them.
" Masters fishermen are very interested in sharing their abilities, but they are also interested in the precariousness of the Ayeyarwady game. "Now, in 2018, they are thriving, but if we cannot keep their numbers, we run the danger of loosing this species," said U Maung Lay. Myanmar's government is dedicated to this mission and the new sanctuary covers 120 kilometers from Sagaing to Shwegu in the state of Kachin.
"We have to create more sanctuaries if we want to rescue the dolphins," said Han Win of the Ministry of Fisheries. "The dolphin can be saved."