Regulation News

Dolphin Danger: Strandings in Northwest Ireland Renew Bycatch Concerns

Strandings of common dolphins for the first two months of the year are at their second highest since records began in 2002, says the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

 

A total of 28 confirmed standings were recorded in the IWDG's strandings database in January and February of this year, just below 2013's worst figures so far when 31 were reported.

That compares to an average of fewer than six reports for the same period each year between 2002 and 2010. The current decade has seen a significant jump in recorded figures, with 18 reports of dolphin standings in 2011 compared to just two in the same months in 2010.

Many of the dolphins found this year were recorded in the Northwest, a great number of them drowned according to post-mortem results, while others showed signs of being tangled in fishing gear, which suggests they were bycatch in the nets of supertrawlers that ply the seas off Donegal, Sligo and Mayo.

"While there is no conclusive proof of what vessels are involved, the evidence points to the presence of large (c.100m) foreign registered freezer trawlers fishing in Irish offshore waters."

That's according to the IWDG's strandings officer Mick O'Connell, who warns that "the number of bycaught dolphins that actually get washed ashore and recorded as stranded may be only a small percentage of the actual number of dead animals."

The IWDG reiterates the call for independent observers to be placed on supertrawlers in Irish waters, following controversy over the visit of one of the world's largest fishing boats last November.

In other news, Scotland's Press and Journal reports that a humpback whale was killed after getting trapped in fishing ropes in the Outer Hebrides.

The juvenile whale was found dead on the Isle of Barra this week with the "classic signs of having suffered entanglement."

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