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Task Teams aim to provide rapid and targeted responses to situations where significant and swift population decline is happening, and a real threat of extinction exists at either global or individual population level.

Initiated in 2015, Task Teams focus exclusively on dolphins and porpoises, known collectively as small cetaceans.  There are currently three teams operating.  The first Task Team was formed in 2015 and has completed its work and handed over to a longer-term plan for conservation management (see below).

The Task Team initiative is overseen by a Steering Committee which advises on populations that are at-risk and facing unsustainable mortality rates. The Steering Committee also considers whether a population is likely to respond effectively to this type of support.  Several factors are likely to increase the impact of a Task Team.  These include the existence of local expertise and the willingness of relevant authorities and governments to receive help.

Each new Task Team begins with a review of existing information before developing a priority research and conservation plan, establishing dialogue with the countries involved (known as range states) and working as closely as possible with other stakeholders.  Collaboration is vital to success, at local, regional and national levels, and with other programmes, both within the IWC and beyond.

Click here to read the Terms of Reference for the Task Team initiative.

The Task Team Initiative currently works in partnership with several IWC initiatives including Conservation Management Plans (CMPs).  Where Task Teams aim to provide urgent and informal support, CMPs provide a government-level framework that can be tailored to different circumstances and moves through a series of steps: nomination, developments, implementation, monitoring and review.  

The first Task Team was assembled in response to the declining population of franciscana, a dolphin found in coastal waters off Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.  The Task Team’s actions included developing a CMP proposal focused on long-term habitat protection and minimising threats, particularly bycatch in fishing gillnets.  The urgent actions of the Task Team were completed and effectively handed over to the long-term CMP which was endorsed in 2016.  

Task Teams also work closely with other IWC initiatives, sharing expertise and maximising effectiveness on Bycatch Mitigation, Strandings, Entanglement, Ship Strikes, Ocean Noise, Wildmeat and many more manmade threats.

Current Task Teams

South Asian River Dolphin (two sub-species)

The South Asian River Dolphin Task Team was formed in 2017, specifically to assess emerging threats to the two sub-species (Ganges and Indus river dolphins) caused by the loss of habitat across India, Pakistan and Nepal. Some 80% of their range has already been altered by river flow regulation and construction projects, and further development is planned. 

Research scientists from each range state and other experts in river dolphin research are working together to identify information gaps and research priorities, and develop a transnational plan, coordinating efforts and communicating their findings to government agencies in all three countries, and other bodies concerned with wildlife conservation in freshwater systems (rivers and lakes).

Bycatch is believed to be another significant threat and the Task Team is working with the IWC’s Bycatch Mitigation Initiative to evaluate the impact of fishing activity and potentially make recommendations regarding future bycatch monitoring, alternative fishing technologies to reduce injury and mortality, and other policies.

Click here to read the most recent report of the South Asian River Dolphin Task Team.

Africa-Focused Sousa (two sub-species)

The Africa-Focused Sousa Task Team was established in early 2020 in response to repeated warnings of the severe decline of both species of Sousa (Atlantic and Indian Ocean humpback dolphins) that occur off the coast of Africa.

The focus of this Task Team is to develop a comprehensive framework of conservation actions.  This is the largest Task Team to-date, with 35 members from 14 African countries, and the scale reflects the challenges, due to both the magnitude of the problems facing Sousa in Africa, and the geographical scale involved.  

Click here to read the most recent report of the Sousa Task Team.

Lahille’s Bottlenose Dolphin

Only two small populations of this sub-species of Bottlenose dolphins now exist and there is evidence of dramatic decline in parts of its range.  A Task Team was created in 2021 in order to initiate, guide and co-ordinate implementation of conservation strategies for populations in Brazil and Uruguay, and also to investigate the causes of population declines in Argentina and Uruguay. 

Topics covered to-date include bycatch, disease and monitoring. The team is also exploring possible synergies with the Franciscana CMP (see also text above), believed to share both range and threats. Lahille's dolphin is also under consideration as a candidate for a future CMP.

Click here to read the proposal to create a Task Team for Lahille’s Bottlenose Dolphin.

Click here to read a conservation status update on Lahille’s Bottle nose Dolphin.