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The Amazon River Dolphin Conservation Management Plan (CMP) was adopted by the IWC in 2021 - the first CMP for a freshwater cetacean. The CMP was developed by the governments of Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.


Amazon River dolphins (Inia geoffrensis and Sotalia fluviatilis) are classified as endangered (EN) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to anthropogenic impacts including entanglement, habitat fragmentation, infrastructure development and hydrocarbon exploration.  River dolphins are considered among the most threatened species of cetaceans on the planet due to the degradation and transformation of habitats. In recent years there has been a drastic increase in the magnitude of threats such as deforestation, loss of river connectivity due to dams, mercury contamination, overfishing, and bycatch.

The CMP defines the main actions required to evaluate the dolphin populations in their different ranges of distribution, identify the threats and guide actions that guarantee their conservation in the short, medium and long term. The CMP focuses on mechanisms for connecting the work of researchers, organisations and governments to influence management policies in the Amazon, Orinoco and Tocantins/Araguaia basins.

Progress to date includes:

  • Surveys conducted to assess habitat use and threats, estimating river dolphin abundance
  • Experimental use of pingers to reduce dolphin bycatch
  • Satellite tagging of 46 Inia spp. dolphins
  • Containment studies assessing levels of mercury in cetaceans
  • Development of 2022-2023 workplan focusing on consolidating scientific information relevant to river dolphins to meet CMP goals

Other efforts underway:

  • Clarifying the number of species, subspecies or subpopulations that exist to inform and track progress on conservation priorities
  • Identifying national and regional policies
  • Linking the CMP with concurrent goals of deforestation control
  • Tackling challenges related to climate change, fisheries management, hydro-energy development, mining and prohibition of mercury use

Read the Conservation Management Plan for the Amazon River Dolphin, endorsed by the Commission in 2022.                                                               

The Inia river dolphins are distributed in the Amazon, Orinoco and Tocantins basins, as shown in the following map (source: Omacha Foundation).

Inia river dolphin distribution edited

The distribution of the Sotalia dolphins is shown in the map below.

Sotalia river dolphin distribution 002 edited