Scientists spot endangered dolphins and whales in Thai waters

Thailand’s efforts to protect marine biodiversity appear to be succeeding as scientists recently spotted three endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and several Bryde’s whales in the upper Gulf of Thailand.

During a survey of endangered species, a research team with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources found three Irrawaddy dolphins and a group of a dozen Bryde’s whales just off the coast of Samut Prakan province on the northern rim of the Gulf of Thailand where the Chao Phraya River spills into the sea.

Irrawaddy dolphins only exist in three rivers and along the coasts of some Southeast Asian countries. Fewer than 300 are estimated to still exist in the wild, and only 92 of the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphins, the subspecies found in and around Thailand.

The International Whaling Commission says that Bryde’s whales, which are only found in tropical waters, is one of the least understood whale species. Their population is larger than that of Irrawaddy dolphins because they are found in warm waters across the globe. They may number as much as 100,000.

Nonetheless, Bryde’s whales are still designated as endangered. The population has been decreasing because of a number of factors including commercial whaling, overfishing, oil spills, dam and bridge building, and pollution, including plastic pollution in the oceans.

Thailand’s marine conservationists have long been concerned with the diminishing numbers of these species. It was plastic pollution that brought the issue to the attention of the public a few years ago.

The Thai government has taken a leading role in the Southeast Asia region in forging agreements to clean up the oceans and prevent plastics and other pollutants from reaching the oceans.

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