Marine experts urge action to protect UK dolphins Published: 22 May, 2007
MARINE experts today warned dolphins could disappear from part of the
UK’s coastline unless action is taken to protect them from commercial
More than a dozen species of dolphin, whale and porpoise are regularly
seen off the coasts of Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly,particularly between June and August.
But a report analysing 14 years of cetacean records from the south west of England shows an alarming decline in the sighting of some species – particularly bottlenose dolphins.
It also shows an increase in the number of dead dolphins washed up on
The problem was highlighted when numerous dolphin carcasses were found
along the south west coastline after the container ship MSC Napoli was
grounded a mile off Sidmouth in Devon on January 20.
The joint report by Marine Connection and The Wildlife Trusts highlights the 14 species of whale, dolphin and porpoise which are regularly spotted off the south west, dubbed England’s “Dolphin Coast”.
Lissa Goodwin, fisheries and policy officer for Marine Connection, said: “Entanglement in fishing gear is the number one cause of death in stranded dolphins, particularly common dolphins and harbour porpoises.
“If we want to reduce human impacts on dolphins and protect the region’s dolphins then we need to take urgent action.”
The report shows that, overall, more cetaceans are reported now than in 1990.
But this may be because more people are aware of the importance of
reporting sightings rather than an indicator of an increase in numbers.
Sightings of bottlenose dolphin have decreased since 1990 and many
scientists and researchers believe the south west population is in
Experts believe the number of dead dolphins and porpoises found on the
south west’s beaches is less than 1% of the total biocatch – dolphins
caught in fishing nets.
Dr Goodwin said: “What we are seeing now really are the last dolphins to frequent our shores.
“Certainly with bottlenose dolphins, I think we could be seeing the last of them in the south west.
“Of all marine life species, dolphins are the one species judged to be
charismatic and many people take them to their heart.”
She added: “It’s difficult to set any specific timeline but it is really quite worrying.”
The South West Dolphin Report, which Dr Goodwin said has “nationwide
implications”, is being launched at a presentation evening hosted by
Marine Connection and The Wildlife Trusts tonight at the Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club, in Plymouth.
It recommends a number of urgent actions to save the dolphins including the use of acoustic alarms on fishing nets, known as pingers, that emit warning sounds every few seconds to alert nearby animals to the presence of bottom-set gill and tangle-nets.
It also calls for research into why dolphins and porpoises get caught in fishing nets and for a scheme to allow necropsies to determine the cause of death of those washed ashore.
A report on the distribution and type of fishing around south west
shores is needed.
More power should also be granted to inshore fishery management bodies
enabling them to close fisheries known to catch dolphins and other
creatures until a suitable device or measure has been identified.
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