Dolphin Care Uk is determined to help stop the needless killing of our beautiful dolphins.
Dolphins and porpoises are dying in hundreds, maybe thousands, in fishing nets around the UK. The awful spectacle of dead dolphins on our beaches will continue unless more action is taken. The UK Government has banned sea bass fishing by UK trawlers within 12 miles of the coast but this will not solve the problem. The bass fishery, including French boats, operates beyond these waters. Other fisheries may also be guilty.
The death of dolphins and porpoises in fishing nets is not only a conservation issue, but also a critical welfare matter. As panic sets in, the trapped dolphins thrash around in their struggle to surface for air. It is common for dolphins to suffer many broken teeth, Their beaks, jaws and fins are torn in their furious attempt to break free from the net. Eventually they will run out of air, suffocate and die.
The UK is party to several agreements with legal obligations to protect small cetaceans, including the EU habitats directive, the Agreement of the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Sea (ASCOBANS) and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Technical, educational and legal measures can be taken to avoid or reduce cetacean by-catch. Most fishermen would not want to catch cetaceans, so a number of projects have been undertaken with their co-operation to test measures such as the attachment of acoustic devices ('pingers') to nets to alert cetaceans of the presence of the nets. More recently, tests have been made on devices to allow dolphins to escape from pelagic trawl nets.
In March 2004, the European Commission introduced a new regulation aimed at reducing the bycatch of harbour porpoises in bottom set gillnets and entangling nets. From the summer of 2005, pinger use will become mandatory on bottom-set gillnets or entangling nets in the North Sea and the Skaggerak and Kattergat region deployed from vessels greater than 12m in length. Similar rules will apply to the western English Channel and South Western Approaches from January 2006, and to the east English Channel from January 2007. This regulation also made provision for the monitoring of dolphin bycatch in trawl fisheries from January 2005 in the English Channel, Irish Sea and off western Britain and Ireland, and from January 2006 in the North Sea and west Scotland.
What is Bycatch
Bycatch describes living creatures that are caught unintentionally by fishing gear. Unlike the target species fish specifically targeted for capture, bycatch is unwanted and often unused. Bycatch cannot be used for example, if it is undersized or a protected species like dolphin's, they are then thrown back into the sea.
Bycatch: The industry term for the inadvertent capture of non-target species in fishing gear. Besides cetaceans and other marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds and non-commercial fish species also are regularly caught and killed unintentionally as bycatch.
The Problem: The single biggest threat facing cetaceans worldwide is death as bycatch in fishing gear..
More dolphins, porpoises and whales die every year by getting entangled in fishing gear than from any other cause. Researchers at Duke University and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland estimate a global annual average of nearly 308,000 deaths per year - or nearly 1,000 per day.
Fishing gear that poses the biggest danger to cetaceans includes: gillnets, set nets, trammel nets, seines, trawling nets and longlines. Because of their low cost and widespread use, gillnets are responsible for a very high proportion of global cetacean bycatch. Experts agree that wherever there are gillnets, there is cetacean bycatch..
Pelagic gears are used principally in the capture of shoaling species such as herring, mackerel, pilchard, sea bass, scad, blue whiting, tuna and sprats, which may be found close to the surface, in mid-water or just off the bottom. Electronic equipment such as sonar, net and catch monitors has greatly improved the precision of this method of fishing. Normal towing speed is in the region of 3.75 knots, but may be increased to as high as 5 knots when fishing for mackerel. Pelagic gear is also used for a number of seasonal fisheries such as that for hake in the Clyde and North Channel, the sea bass fishery in the English Channel, certain cod and haddock fisheries in the Irish Sea, and various targeted North Sea fisheries.
During 1999 and 2000, 4 pairs of Irish pelagic pair trawlers were monitored whilst fishing for tuna in the waters off the southwest coast of Ireland and in the Bay of Biscay. In 313 hauls, a total of 145 cetaceans were taken - 127 common dolphins, 8 striped dolphins, 2 Atlantic white-sided dolphins and 8 pilot whales. 30 cetaceans were taken in a single haul. February - March 2000: in excess of 600 dolphins stranded on the coasts of Cornwall, Devon and Brittany. This event was thought to be a result of entanglement in French and Scottish pair trawls, used to catch sea bass in the Western Approaches, as many of the bodies showed signs of incidental capture
It was estimated that during the months January - March, 2003 - 3000 dolphins died due to entanglement in the nets of pair trawlers fishing for sea bass in the English Channel / Western Approaches. The countries using this method of fishing in the Western Approaches are Scotland, England, Ireland, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands. When 116 hauls of the UK pelagic sea bass fishery were observed by the Sea Mammal Research Unit during 2000 and 2001, 53 dolphins were caught in 12 hauls, 20 of which were caught in a single haul.
Common dolphins in the Channel feed mainly on sardines and horse mackerel, with smaller amounts of mackerel and Norway pout generally fish less than 25cm in length. They do not feed on the much larger sea bass, that is the target of the bass fishery.
The UK pelagic fisheries sector is dominated by Scottish boats, mostly skipper-owned, or owned by small businesses based in the fisheries dependent areas along the shores of the Moray Firth and the Shetland Islands. The fleet consists of around 40 vessels. The main target species are herring and mackerel, and this year the UK quota of these species is 200k tonnes and 80k tonnes respectively. A small number of vessels (4 this year) prosecute sea bass between the seasonal main fisheries.
A tighter control is needed to stop these boats from catching Dolphins and Porpoises in their nets.
You can help, by writing a letter to the Departments concerned - see campaign page