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Worldwide, dolphins face a variety of impacts that threaten their existence. Specifically, dolphin threats are mainly a result of human activities. In recent history the Baiji, also known as the Yangtze river dolphin, was declared extinct, its river habitat seriously impacted by the construction of dams and boat traffic.
Endangered dolphins like the Maui’s dolphin are on the brink of extinction due to entanglement in fishing gear. The Maui’s, a sub-species of Hector’s dolphin found in the waters of New Zealand, teeter on the brink with estimates suggesting less than 100 of these dolphins remain in existence. Dolphins are also faced with other threats such as pollution of the environment, climate change, and commercial harvest.
Like whales, dolphins are susceptible to entanglement in commercial fishing gear. Discarded fishing gear also poses a major threat. Entanglement drowns dolphins when they are unable to reach the surface to breathe. A number of dolphin species are on the verge of extinction for this very reason.
River dolphins share their habitat with a large percentage of the world’s population which is threatening their existence. The construction of dams, boat traffic, and other waterfront development are destroying their river habitats at an alarming rate.
Some dolphin species are harvested as a food source, despite containing toxic levels of contaminants such as mercury in their flesh. These contaminants have been directly linked to illness and disorders in humans who consume them. The most talked about dolphin harvest occurs in Japan, and can be further explored in the documentary, The Cove.
Watch this video and learn about the dolphin threats in Japan and one of the great organizations that are working towards saving dolphins:
Climate change has a multitude of effects on the oceans which is having an adverse impact on marine mammals such as dolphins and could become the biggest of all dolphin threats. As ocean temperatures rise from climate change, prey populations can be affected. Climate change also affects ocean currents altering prey distribution, feeding grounds, and migratory pathways.
Other dolphin threats include capture for the highly controversial marine park industry, the ingestion of marine debris, activity and spills resulting from oil and gas development, disturbance by recreational watercraft, and noise pollution.
You can learn more about dolphins here.