In this dramatic footage, Bangladeshi fishermen rescue a pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata) that became entangled in their net in the Bay of Bengal.

Younus Kholifa, the captain of the vessel and leader of the rescue, was able to utilize his knowledge gained from being a part of the the Citizen Science Fishermen Safety Network to successfully rescue the dolphin. This safety network, pioneered by WCS and supported by WorldFish through the USAID EcoFish Project, engages fishermen to use a GPS to collect scientific data on accidental entanglements of dolphins, marine turtles, sharks and rays.

After the crew had set their nets for hilsa, an important foodfish and delicacy in Bangladesh, Captain Kholifa became concerned when he saw a school of dolphins nearby. Shortly thereafter, one of the crew members spotted a struggle in the net. When they realized a dolphin had become entangled, they quickly and carefully brought the 250-pound animal on board where they cut the net free.

The crew knew from training given by WCS that these dolphins are air breathing mammals and, if they become entangled, it is critical to rescue them as quickly as possible to prevent drowning. Local fishermen consider dolphins as their brethren at sea, so when the animal safely swam away, the crew celebrated.

Dolphins are highly social animals. Some, like the long-beaked common dolphin seen above, can gather in groups (called pods) that number in the thousands. ©Alejandra Vargas / Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

Photo: ©Alejandra Vargas / Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

After the rescue, Captain Kholifa was very happy. “Because the entanglement occurred close to the boat, this time we succeeded. It was a privilege to be part of the rescue. These animals are beneficial to all fishermen.”

Abdul Wahab, Team Leader of the EcoFish Project for WorldFish, adds, “Data collected by the fishermen will enable us to establish no gillnet fishing zones in areas where threatened marine megafauna are concentrated, while, at the same time, sustain productive hilsa catches.”

In addition to training the men on marine safety and rescue practices, fishermen involved in the Citizen Science Safety Network are also trained on how to safely navigate during extreme storms, which are increasing in frequency and magnitude due to climate change.

Photo: Pantropical Spotted Dolphin. By Marie Hill – NOAA Photos via Flickr

Last year the benefits of using the GPS were clearly demonstrated when, during an extreme cyclone, another fishing captain in the Citizen Science Fishermen Safety Network led several other fishing boats into the Sundarbans mangrove forest where they found refuge. The next day, he led a search that rescued four fishermen stranded at sea, and another 18 stranded on remote islands.

The Enhanced Coastal Fisheries Project in Bangladesh (ECOFISH-Bangladesh) is a five-year initiative (2014–2019) funded by USAID and implemented jointly by WorldFish and the Department of Fisheries (DoF), Bangladesh. WCS is a partner in this project. The project supports coastal fishing communities and other key stakeholders to improve the resilience of the Meghna River ecosystem and works to strengthen the livelihoods of communities reliant on coastal fisheries.

WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. It harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. 

Also read:

Protecting The World’s Dolphins: What You Can Do To Help

Watch amazing drone footage of a large Dolphin Pod surfing the waves