The Hamilton Spectator

France ordered to try to curb mass dolphin deaths


France’s highest administra­tive body ordered the government Monday to better protect endangered dolphins and porpoises in an industrial fishing hub in the Atlantic Ocean that has become controvers­ial over links to mass deaths of the creatures in recent years.

The move was welcomed by conservati­onists, who hope it could stop some species becoming extinct in the zone.

The council of state gave government officials six months “to close areas of fishing in the Bay of Biscay for appropriat­e periods, in order to limit the number of deaths of common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises that are victims of accidental capture during fishing.”

It also required them to compile a reliable estimate of the annual number of accidental catches.

Government-affiliated scientists estimate that some 10,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed on average every year in that maritime zone of western France alone. They’re widely blamed on industrial fishing.

Indiscrimi­nate French nets, sometimes 50 kilometres long, trawl the ocean for regular fish, indiscrimi­nately pulling in a full range of sea creatures.

Several species are now in a state of “unfavourab­le conservati­on,” with the common dolphin and harbour porpoise in “serious danger of extinction” in the region, officials said.

What’s shocked people is the brutality of many of the deaths. Autopsies carried out on some dolphins showed extreme levels of mutilation. Activists say it’s common for anglers to cut body parts off the suffocated dolphins after they are pulled up on the nets, to save the nets.

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