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The IWC congratulates Scientific Committee member Dr Pedro Fruet who has won a distinguished Whitley Award for his work to address bycatch of Lahille’s bottlenose dolphins in the Patos Lagoon Estuary, southern Brazil.

The total population of the Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin sub-species, which ranges over Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, is estimated to be less than 600 animals and there is evidence of dramatic decline in some parts of its range.  Bycatch is a grave conservation concern for the sub-species, especially in Brazil. In the Patros Lagoon Estuary, bycatch is responsible for over 40% of mortalities in a population of approximately 90 Lahille’s dolphins.

Pedro’s Whitley award-winning conservation plan recognises that the much needed mitigation measures will only work if they are integrated with the needs of fishing communities and achieve a balance between livelihoods and conservation efforts. 

The Patos Lagoon is one of Brazil’s busiest fishing grounds and Pedro’s plan includes outreach to build understanding between communities, scientists and authorities, and a programme to train 50 local people in participatory management, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to engage in local species protection.

The importance of collaboration and co-existence in tackling bycatch is also recognised and emphasised at the IWC, including through the Task Team and Bycatch Mitigation initiatives.  In 2020, the IWC established a Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin Task Team.  Task Teams aim to provide rapid and targeted support to governments, local communities and other stakeholders, and this newly formed team will initiate and implement conservation strategies for the Lahille’s populations in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. 

The Bycatch Mitigation Initiative (BMI) is the IWC’s global programme to develop, assess and promote effective bycatch prevention and mitigation measures.  The BMI takes a multi-faceted approach and works at many levels, including with local communities, national governments and intergovernmental fisheries bodies.

The Whitley Fund for Nature is a fundraising and grant-giving nature conservation charity that offers recognition, training and grants to support the work of grassroots conservation leaders across the Global South. 

The Whitley Award scheme has produced a short film about Pedro's programme to build bridges to encourage co-existence with the Lahille's bottlenose dolphin.