Dolphin-killing trawlers stopped from fishing

Feature story - 3 March, 2005
Last season UK government observers witnessed two vessels, the Ocean Star and Ocean Crest, killing more than 150 dolphins while trawling for sea bass. But the government didn't lift a finger to stop it. So we took our ship, Esperanza, into the English Channel to do something about it. Now we have found them.

Activists attempt to discover if a pair trawler has dead dolphins in its nets. The trawler is trying to hide the content of the nets from view.

The Ocean Star and Ocean Crest are part of a "pair trawling" fleet fromthe UK and France, which is estimated to kill thousands of dolphins inthe English Channel every year. Pair trawlers drag a huge net betweenthem to catch fish like sea bass, but also kill dolphins.

Our inflatables found the pair trawlers about 30 miles south ofPlymouth. As soon as we approached, the trawlers stopped fishing andhauled in their nets. Our campaigner Willie was onboard one of theinflatables: "As soon as we got between the trawlers they swiftlystarted moving together - encircling us between them and their nets! Ofcourse our inflatables are much more manoeuvrable, and we got away noproblem. The boats then started to haul their nets - and as soon as onevessel was 'free' from the net it made a point of continually headingstraight for our inflatables at speed.

"All the time the one boat was hauling; the other seemed to betrying to stop us getting close to see the net hauled. Anyone wouldthink they had something to hide - like all the dolphins they've killedin this fishery over the past few years?

"Immediately the boats steamed off, and it doesn't look likethey'll start fishing again soon. But we'll keep with them - safe inthe knowledge that every hour they're not fishing, they're not killingdolphins." More from the weblog.

Previously, the Ocean Star and Ocean Crest stopped fishing when weplaced swimmers in front of the boats and attached large inflatablebuoys to their net. We are taking action because both the UK governmentand the European Union (EU) have failed to tackle this problem.

"Thisneedless destruction of the dolphin population must stop, and becausethe governments won't stop it, it's up to us. Otherwise, there's a veryreal chance that dolphins will disappear altogether from the Channel,"said Sarah Duthie from onboard the Esperanza.

Government observers on UK sea bass trawlers last year recorded 169dolphins killed in the huge nets. Government figures estimate that theUK fleet alone was responsible for the deaths of 439 dolphins lastyear. The UK and French fleets combined could be killing over 2000dolphins a year.

We want the UK government to investigate which other fishing methodsare also killing dolphins and porpoises and take action. Worldwide, theunintentional capture in fishing nets of dolphins, porpoises and othermarine species is a major problem. It is estimated to kill some 300,000whales, dolphins, and porpoises a year. Overall it has been estimatedthat 23 percent of the global fisheries catch is thrown back dead.

Take action:

Tell the new EU Fisheries Commissioner, Joe Borg, that you want pair trawling for bass banned!

In depth:

Read the updates from the crew taking action for dolphin protection.

Slideshows of dolphins and our actions to defend them.