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Published April 2003 - Updated June 2005
LGVN Oceans - Dolphins

Dolphins Killed by Fishing Nets off British Coast

In January 2003 alone, nearly 200 dolphins were washed up dead on the south-west coast of Britain.

The deaths are mainly caused by French fishing trawlers catching sea bass using a system called "pair net" fishing. The system uses two large trawlers with giant nets tied between the two.
They trawl huge areas of sea catching everything that swims in-between them. 750 tonnes of fish can be caught in one catch. The dolphins are caught in the nets and meet a grisly death as they slowly drown, while at the same time being lacerated by the nets as they struggle.
Many dolphins have been found with their beaks broken. The death rate is so high and consistent that beaches around the south west of UK cannot keep up with the removal of dead dolphins littering the coastlines. It's estimated that only 1% of the victims are washed ashore. The other 99% eventually sink to the sea floor. Many hundreds more are also washed up on French coastlines. Environmentalist now say that the area's Dolphin population is in great danger of being completely wiped out.

Brixham Seawatch have been making all efforts to deal with the crisis. Lindy Hingley, who set up Brixham Seawatch with her husband John 13 years ago works tirelessly to campaign and save the marine life around the UK. Linda received an MBE in recognition of here conservation work, but in January 2003 was prepared to return her award, saying that more dolphins have died than ever before since receiving it. She feels exasperated and frustrated by the way governments and the relative countries are not dealing with the problem.

The RSPCA are urging the UK government and EU to adopt tough new measures to stop the killing. The trawler season in this area of the English channel takes place throughout the winter.

In 2005 the battle to stop trawlers using "pair trawling" continued as Greenpeace dumped three dead dolphins on the steps of the department of British environment minister Ben Bradshaw. However Mr Bradshaw made it clear to Greenpeace that their actions should have been directed at the French because of their continual use of pair trawling. In fact in 2004 Mr Bradshaw had called for an emergency closure of the bass fisheries, but was rejected by EU Fisheries and France. He also recently obtained a commitment by the EU Council to ensure an urgent review regarding the data on the bycatch of cetaceans around the seas of Southern Britain.
Greenpeace however claim that the Environment minister had been ignoring the problem for two long, hence their action.

It's now thought that British and French bass trawlermen are killing over 2,000 dolphins a year around the English Channel and western approaches.

If you find a dead stranded whale or dolphin contact:
England: 020 794 25 155 (The Natural History Museum)
Scotland: 01463 243 030 (Scottish Agricultural College)
Wales: 01348 875 000 (Marine Environmental Monitoring)

If you find a live stranded whale or dolphin contact:
England and Wales: BDMLR on 01825 765546 or RSPCA on 0870 5555999
Scotland: The Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit on 01261 851696 or the SSPCA on 08707 377722


Brixham Seawatch: http://www.brixhamseawatch.fsnet.co.uk

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