19 March 2008

Bycaught dolphins on British coasts

A scaring number of dolphins and porpoises are washing up dead on British coasts.

Since the beginning of the year, 29 animals have been found on the beaches of south-west England. Experts suspect that most have drowned after being caught up in fishing nets.

Some dolphins have their tails or beaks amputated probably due to a useless attempt to free them from the nets, in other individuals bellies have been sliced open after death to try to make them sink.

Mark Simmonds, science director at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "It is a horrid way for these dolphins to die and you can see that when they come ashore. Fishermen are getting more adept at hiding the evidence and what we see on land is only a proportion of the problem."

On the other hand, Andy Wheeler, from the Cornish Fish Producers' Organisation, said: "Every reasonable effort is made by fishermen to avoid bycatch of dolphins. The jury is still out on whether the level of bycatch is a threat to the population."

Considering that the fishing effort is increasing worldwide, it’s time to increase also our effort to eliminate bycaught animals, whether cetaceans, birds, marine turtles, sharks or others.

Silvia Bonizzoni

Photo: WDCS

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