Conservation of Africa’s Most Imperiled Cetacean, the Atlantic Humpback Dolphin (Sousa teuszii)


Weir, C., Minton, G., Collins, T.J.Q.






Sousa teuszii, conservation status, threats, bycatch, habitat degradation, critically endangered, Atlantic humpback dolphin


The Atlantic humpback dolphin has been listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered since 2017, and is Africa’s most imperiled cetacean species. Occurring only along the Atlantic coast of Africa, its restricted geographic range, reliance on nearshore habitat, and naturally low abundance make it highly vulnerable to human activities. Known immediate threats include bycatch in fisheries, especially gillnets, and deliberate hunting for fishing bait and human consumption. The scale of those mortalities remains unknown, but they are suspected to be widespread. Other potential threats include habitat loss and degradation, pollution and prey depletion. Conservation management strategies are hindered by significant data deficits, lack of funding, and numerous anthropogenic factors including high levels of human poverty across the countries where the
species occurs, and lack of local scientists, resources, and political will. Although the deteriorating status of the Atlantic humpback dolphin has been recognized for decades, those concerns have not yet translated into tangible management actions to stabilize or increase populations. Some Atlantic humpback dolphin populations may still have long-term viability, if habitat protection and targeted threat management are implemented. As a minimum, it is recommended that management should incorporate the development of a collaborative and transboundary species action plan, mitigation of bycatch (such as
subsidies for gillnet removal), designation of managed protected areas where threats are removed, robust population assessments, increased awareness and capacity-building, and preparation for informed discussion regarding the viability of future ex situ management options. Without immediate action, the outlook for the Atlantic humpback dolphin is poor.