Dolphin whisperer U Aung Thinn taps a hand-carved stick on the side of his slender boat and patiently waits. As he spots the dolphins’ grey arches gracefully moving towards him, he gathers his fishing equipment.
One of the dolphins flicks its tail out of the water, sending the signal for Thinn to cast his net. The mammals corral fish towards the boat. As the fish swarm into the net, the dolphins devour the inevitable overspill.
However, like the dolphins, the future of Myanmar’s cooperative fishing is under threat.
“It’s difficult to learn, and the younger generation do not want to do it now; fishing is becoming harder and it’s not economically viable,” says Paul Eshoo, project adviser for Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project. “Cheaper nets and fishing equipment make that form of fishing more efficient.”
In a bid to save the Irrawaddy dolphins while providing additional income for cooperative fishing communities, last year Eshoo joined forces with local tour company Living Irrawaddy Travel to launch Living Irrawaddy Dolphin Project.