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Identifying conservation solutions for the Yangtze finless porpoise through community research

Principal Investigator: Samuel Turvey, Zoological Society of London

Funding year: 2011

Main objectives:


  • Community interview surveys to assess:

      (a) the levels, patterns and causes of porpoise mortalities;

      (b) patterns of usage of illegal fishing methods (rolling hooks, set nets and electrofishing);

      (c) levels of fishing income;

      (d) local attitudes and awareness about fishing regulations and conservation issues;

     (e) the general state of regional Yangtze fisheries.  


  • Educational campaigns to raise awareness of porpoise conservation.


  • Strengthening regional enforcement of fisheries regulations by working with local authorities to identify management deficiencies and constraints.

  • Development of a porpoise monitoring network by identifying and training representatives from community fisheries offices, including reporting of mortalities.
  • Training of Chinese project staff in standardised post-mortem methodologies.

Main outcomes:

  • Better quantitative information: Between 2011 and 2012 standardised interviews were conducted with 510 fishermen across three porpoise high conservation value areas in the middle lower Yangtze drainage (the Huangshi–Wuxue and Jiujiang–Anqing river sections in the Yangtze mainstem, and around East Dongting Lake and Poyang Lake). These collected quantitative data on local patterns of legal and illegal fishing gear usage, local attitudes and awareness of conservation and fisheries legislation, and local livelihoods and incomes.

  • Outreach and awareness: Regular community outreach activities addressing regional fisheries legislation and porpoise conservation legislation take place across the Huangshi–Anqing region of the Yangtze mainstem and around East Dongting Lake, although these appear to be less well conducted around Poyang Lake. Results indicate that local awareness of regulations governing the use of fishing methods other than electrofishing is relatively low, and only a single informant across the entire survey area was aware that rolling hook longlining, a likely major cause of porpoise mortality, is regionally prohibited.

  • Identified actions: There is an urgent need for better education about legislation banning the use of rolling hook longlines in the Yangtze mainstem, and for better education about porpoise conservation legislation around East Dongting and Poyang Lakes. In addition to ongoing support for enforcement of legislation against electrofishing, there is also an urgent need for substantially increased regional enforcement of existing legislation banning the use of rolling hook long]lines in the Yangtze mainstem, and banning the use of fixed nets in East Dongting and Poyang Lakes.

  • Better understanding of context to inform management actions: There are over 8,000 licensed fishing families living in these three porpoise high conservation value areas; these families have cumulative annual earnings from fishing of over GBP 15.8m, and very little experience of any alternative livelihoods. These considerations should be taken into account when deciding how, or whether, to invest in any form of larger scale regulation of fishing activities in the middle lower Yangtze drainage as part of a potential future porpoise conservation management plan.


Identifying conservation solutions for the Yangtze Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena Asiaeorientalis) through community research. Turvey et al. Click here to read.