France under pressure to save dolphins from trawlers

A whole lot of dolphins are washing up on France’s Atlantic coast and 1000’s extra are believed killed in fishermen’s nets every year, as environmentalists and Brussels strain the federal government to guard the marine mammals.

On Wednesday, Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, head of the League for the Safety of Birds (LPO), mentioned he would write to President Emmanuel Macron that “the time has come to do our utmost to avoid wasting dolphins from mistreatment and even extinction.

“This dramatic scenario is even much less acceptable provided that it’s avoidable,” Bougrain-Dubourg added.

Surge in dolphin deaths

Professional-dolphin activists say dangerous fishing actions, together with deep-sea and sea-bed trawling, should be halted for a number of weeks within the Bay of Biscay between France and Spain.

The Pelagis ocean observatory has noticed a surge in dolphin deaths on the Atlantic coast, with 127 widespread dolphins washed up in January alone — up from 73 in the identical month final yr.

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Elevated dolphin deaths are often seen later within the yr, throughout their February-March coastal feeding season that brings them nearer to fishing vessels chasing hake and sea bass.

This yr the rise in finds is “particularly early”, Pelagis mentioned this month.

Over the entire of 2022, 669 dolphins washed up — down from 1,299 in 2020.

Scientists consider that greater than 80 % of useless dolphins sink or decompose at sea quite than washing ashore, suggesting the actual variety of deaths is way greater at as much as 11,000 per yr.

Of the washed-up dolphins, “most offered indicators of being caught in fishing tools”, Pelagis mentioned, with the LPO singling out “slices within the tail fins and clear traces of nets” on their pores and skin.

– ‘Half-measures’ –

CIEM, a scientific physique that tracks North Atlantic ecosystems, has for years urged a winter pause for some indiscriminate fishing strategies, assembly fierce resistance from industrial fishermen.

After two years of strain from the European Fee and beneath the highlight from activists, Paris has to date provided an eight-point plan with technical measures, stopping far wanting an outright ban.

Measures embody a voluntary observer scheme aboard fishing vessels, satellite tv for pc monitoring and becoming trawlers with cameras or acoustic repellent units that drive the dolphins away.

Many fishing ships are already fitted with the units in a “large-scale experiment” to check their effectiveness, the federal government mentioned.

However the LPO denounced the federal government strikes as “half-measures… that may change nothing and value us valuable time”.

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Environmentalist group Sea Shepherd mentioned the repellent units “create big exclusion zones in dolphins’ feeding grounds” that threat chopping them off from wanted nourishment.

Paris has not utterly closed the door to momentary bans, suggesting “time- and space-limited closures” to fishing may very well be examined within the Bay of Biscay in winter 2024-25 “if there aren’t any passable leads to decreasing unintended catches” of dolphins.

That isn’t quickly sufficient for the activists. Sea Shepherd have filed a legal grievance on January 16 in opposition to individuals unknown over the failure to intervene.