Child studies a dead Common Dolphin washed up on beach in the west of England. It is estimated about 4000 dolphins and porpoises per year may die in mid water trawl fishing nets in this region, which is 5 percent of the population.
Every winter hundreds of dead dolphins and porpoises wash up on
British and French beaches. Many have obvious injuries - broken
beaks, torn flippers, bruising, and lacerations that tell the story
of a prolonged death in fishing nets. The bodies of thousands of
others never wash up and are claimed by the ocean.
The main culprit for the deaths is a fishing method called pair
trawling most often used to catch sea bass during the winter. Huge
nets (some can hold 10 jumbo jets) are towed in mid water at high
speed by two fishing boats to catch fish such as sea bass,
mackerel, horse mackerel, hake and in summer albacore tuna. However
these fish are also the food of common dolphins and Atlantic
white-sided dolphins in particular, but also bottlenose dolphins
and long-finned pilot whales. These species are caught accidentally
in the same nets and dragged to their death.
Observers of pair trawling in 2001 saw 53 dolphins killed in 116
hauls of the net; with two Irish boats in 1999, 145 dolphins were
killed in 313 hauls, with 30 animals being killed by one single
haul of the net. There are hundreds of boats in the whole EU fleet
mainly from UK, France, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and
Out of Sight
Imagine if such a death toll and suffering was inflicted on
wildlife on land by an agricultural practice. There would be such
outrage that it would have been banned long ago, if it was even
allowed to begin in the first place. Because these deaths are
taking place far out at sea it's another case of out of site out of
We are setting sail with the largest ship in our fleet, the
Esperanza to document and observe the pair trawl fishery and the
by-catch problem. It is an urgent issue because estimates of the
current death toll could mean several species becoming locally
extinct within the next few years.
Worldwide, trawling and other forms of destructive and
unsustainable fishing are the biggest threat to marine life.
Millions of unwanted fish species, birds, turtles, sharks and
dolphins die in fishing nets and lines every year. A quarter of
everything caught is thrown back into the sea dead.
addition to dolphin by catch in trawl nets, thousands of porpoises
around the UK are also being killed each year by fixed fishing nets
set on the seabed. Around 6,000 harbour porpoises have been caught
annually in recent years.
EU states are obliged to protect dolphins and porpoises, known
collectively as cetaceans. Under the Habitats Directive the UK and
other member states must monitor cetacean by catch and ensure that
fishing does not have a negative effect.
At present the EU is considering a new regulation to attempt to
address the issue of by-catch. The regulation proposes observers on
trawlers but contains no proposals for taking action to actually
protect dolphins. The regulation also proposes acoustic deterrents
(pingers) on set nets but there is controversy over whether these
would be effective. Whilst we broadly welcome such a proposal it is
clear that the measures proposed will not significantly reduce
dolphin deaths in fishing nets. It is crucial that any legislation
adopted commits governments to take action against fisheries
identified as responsible for dolphin deaths.
the UK Fisheries Minister to act on this issue.
ways to help the campaign.
Learn about pair
trawling and by catch with our interactive guides.
Dolphins condemned by pair trawling:
Quicktime (4.4 MBytes),
Real (3.2 MBytes),
Windows Media (3.4 MBytes)