Chinese River Dolphin Project

NOAA Employees Participate in Pilot Survey for Yangtze River Dolphin in China (April 2006)

Bob Pitman and Jay Barlow returned last week from a pilot survey of Yangtze River dolphins in China. The pilot survey was funded by a Swiss NGO ( and was a collaboration with the Chines Academy of Sciences and the Wuhan Institute of Hydrobiology. Pitman and Barlow were invited as outside experts to develop a survey protocol to estimate the abundance of these river dolphins and the finless porpoise that is also found in this river. The pilot survey covered the middle sections of the Yangtze between Wuhan and Dongting Lake. The methods developed on this 7-day pilot survey will be used on a 8-week survey of the entire river in November and December of this year. The Yangtze River dolphin (known as baiji) is the most endangered cetacean species in the world, and it is possible that this species is already extinct. No baiji were seen during the pilot survey, even though this survey covered the areas where baiji were last seen. The survey was, however, successful in finding many groups of finless porpoises. The full survey later this year is also designed to estimate the abundance of this threatened species. The pilot survey received a lot of press coverage in China, with articles and TV coverage reaching hundreds of millions of people. Pitman's photograph appeared in the largest national newspaper in China, and both NOAA researchers were shown in a TV news segment on China's most watched TV station - CCTV. An English language story was written by a correspondant from the London Daily Telegraph who was aboard for one day of the survey (see link below). A press release for general distribution is expected this week. ( previous link is a link to a non-Federal government web site. Click to review the NOAA Fisheries disclaimer.)