Cetacean by­catch

Many EU coun­tries are fail­ing to re­duce the num­ber of dol­phins killed

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents - James Fair

Many EU coun­tries are fail­ing to fu­fill obli­ga­tions to as­sess and re­duce the num­ber of dol­phins that are killed in fish­ing nets, with Spain, Swe­den and Fin­land the worst of­fend­ers, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from Whale and Dol­phin Con­ser­va­tion (WDC).

Bri­tain was praised for hav­ing the best record in at­tempt­ing to ad­dress lev­els of cetacean by­catch. “I think, in gen­eral, the UK sticks to the leg­is­la­tion, and we put the fund­ing into it,” says Dr Fiona Read, who wrote the re­port.

WDC says hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­phins die in fish­ing nets in Euro­pean wa­ters ev­ery year. Com­mon dol­phins and har­bour por­poises are most af­fected, with small num­bers of bottlenose dol­phins, pi­lot whales and striped dol­phins.

Un­der Euro­pean Com­mis­sion reg­u­la­tions, in­tro­duced in 2004, all na­tions with fish­ing fleets have an obli­ga­tion to mon­i­tor and re­port the level of by­catch in cer­tain ves­sels, and – where nec­es­sary – to try to re­duce it.

Ac­cord­ing to WDC, Spain failed to sub­mit a re­port in five out of nine years (2006–2014), failed to prop­erly mon­i­tor what was hap­pen­ing and made no at­tempt to mit­i­gate. Swe­den only re­ported in three of those years, and achieved “low com­pli­ance of by­catch mon­i­tor­ing and mit­i­ga­tion”, the re­port says.

One of the prob­lems, says Read, is that we don’t fully un­der­stand why dol­phins get trapped and killed in nets – they may sim­ply not no­tice gill­nets, but de­lib­er­ately en­ter trawl and purse-seine ones to feed.

And though the UK de­serves some praise for be­ing the only EU coun­try that fully meets its obli­ga­tions, the cost to the gov­ern­ment over a five-year pe­riod was just £1.4m. “It’s not much,” says Read, “and if very large fish­eries had to pay for one ob­server them­selves, it’s still only a very small cost.”

The UK has the best record of any EU coun­try in mon­i­tor­ing and re­duc­ing dol­phin deaths in fish­ing nets.

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