Dhaka: Bangladesh will soon declare parts of the river area near the Sundarbans as "dolphin sanctuaries" to ensure a safe environment for the endangered freshwater mammals, officials said.
The department of forests initially proposed to declare 32 km of the Pashur and Andharmanik rivers and their channels in Dhangmari, Chandpai and Dudhmukhi areas in the eastern Sundarbans as dolphin sanctuaries.
"Soon the ministry will issue an order on the proposed sanctuaries, following which fishing will be restricted in those areas," Tapan Kumar Dey, forest conservator (wildlife section), was quoted as saying by the Daily Star.
Hundreds of fishermen still catch fish in the water bodies, known as a hotspot for dolphins, he said.
The places were identified through a series of studies by the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP) since 2002.
The waterways of the Sundarbans -- the world`s largest mangrove forest -- are the lone habitat of around 676 freshwater mammals -- 225 of the Ganges river species and 451 of Irrawaddy.
These dolphins are among the world`s most endangered mammals.
Although the animals are not targeted directly, they often get entangled in fishing nets and die in dozens every year. They are also threatened by the rising salinity and pollution in the water, said Rubaiyat Mansur, who works with the BCDP on dolphin conservation.
An earlier BCDP study found that the world`s largest population of Irrawaddy dolphins -- an estimated 6,000 -- live along Bangladesh`s southern coast, including the Sundarbans.