Common Waters: Factors influencing perceptions towards small cetaceans in a fishery dominated habitat in Sindhudurg, Maharashtra.
Ketki Jog1; Mihir Sule1; Vardhan Patankar2; Dipani Sutaria3. (1) Independent Researcher, (2) Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, Karnataka, India, (3) School Of Earth And Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia; Email: Ketki.Jog@Gmail.Com
Conflict between protected species & stakeholders is a serious debilitating factor in the implementation of conservation efforts. In this study, we assessed near-shore small cetacean species’ distributions & the possible role of local stakeholders in their monitoring & conservation in Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, India.
We conducted129 semi-structured interviews (April-May 2012) using snowball sampling, with fishers across 29 villages to collect data about, perception of small cetaceans by the fishing community & current & historical sightings of small cetaceans. We also conducted three boat based transect surveys (Nov ’12- Jan ‘13) to obtain pilot data on species composition & habitat overlap of small cetaceans with existing boat traffic.
We observed Sousa chinensis, 47 pods, x? = 7.5 & Neophocaena phocaenoides, 16 pods, x? = 4.8. We saw a large overlap in these species’ habitat with coastal fisheries. Interviews showed that only 2% of the fishers had negative perceptions about N. phocaenoides, while 75% had a negative attitude towards S. chinensis. Fishers using rampan & small gillnets exhibited a higher degree of negativity, 82% & 72% resp. in comparison to people using large nets & trawlers, 46% & 37% resp.
Hostility towards S. chinensis may stem from the area overlap with shallow water fisheries, as they may opportunistically feed from these nets. Positive perceptions towards dolphins are most likely influenced by fishing gear, fishing area & involvement in dolphin-watching tourism. Appreciating this complex relationship between stakeholders & cetaceans in a fisheries intensive habitat is crucial in devising & implementing conservation initiatives in future.