Fishermen in Brazil and the Toninha

Local ecological knowledge from fishermen from the southeast and south of Brazil about the Toninha – Franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei)

The Ecologia Humana do Oceano research group, based at the Federal University of Espirito Santo in southeastern Brazil, conducted a study with traditional fishermen in the southwest Atlantic on the Toninha – Franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei). The research team conducted interviews in ten fishing communities in southeastern and southern Brazil.

Interview Fischer Toninha Franciscana Brazil

Most fishermen fishing in the range of the Franciscana dolphin have not been able to identify this species. The fishermen who have recognized the toninha explain that this dolphin is accidentally caught as bycatch in gill nets. Usually, the carcasses are thrown overboard, but the fat and muscle can be used as bait for shark fishing and for human consumption. These fishermen do not know any solutions to reduce the unintentional catch of Franciscana dolphins.

Interview Fischer Toninha Franciscana Brazil

The extent to which fishermen can identify the toninha and provide data about them depends on the direct encounters with the animals. Consequently, local knowledge is influenced by the presence of the species in the fishing grounds, the type of fishing gear used and the characteristics of the habitat (protected areas as opposed to the open sea). These conditions facilitate or complicate observation and contact with the Toninha, whose physical and behavioural characteristics already sufficiently limit their observation in the environment.

Interview Fischer Toninha Franciscana Brazil Pontoporia blainvillei

Fishermen's knowledge of the toninha was compared between the regions studied, and the researchers found that fishermen in the south of the country know the species better than fishermen in southeastern Brazil. The results of this study indicate that in the fishing communities studied, especially in the south-east of the country, where toninha is less well known, there is a need for awareness-raising measures for this species.

When conditions were favourable for recognizing the species, fishermen were able to determine its characteristics and provide information about interactions with fisheries. Local ecological knowledge thus proves to be a useful tool to collect data on the populations of the Franciscana dolphin that overlap with the fishing areas in the western South Atlantic.

Interview Fischer Toninha Franciscana Brazil Pontoporia blainvillei

Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) has been proven to be invaluable for wildlife conservation, contributing to a holistic understanding of ecosystems, improving conservation planning and management, and promoting cultural preservation and strengthening of local communities. Integrating LEK with other scientific evidence creates a more inclusive and effective approach to species conservation that ensures the long-term well-being of both wildlife and local communities. Against this background, YAQU PACHA is increasing its commitment and participation in LEK projects.

Read also the publication as PDF: Local ecological knowledge of fishers from southern and southeastern Brazil about the franciscana dolphin Pontoporia blainvillei: Strategies for conservation

The study was funded by YAQU PACHA e.V.