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