Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...
We need whale poo ? WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Humpback whale underwater

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Black Sea common dolphins © Elena Gladilina

The dolphin and porpoise casualties of the war in Ukraine

Rare, threatened subspecies of dolphins and porpoises live in the Black Sea along Ukraine's coast....
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...

European fishing continues to threaten dolphins and porpoises

Fishing activities involving pelagic trawling and static net fisheries may be incidentally killing more common dolphins than their populations can sustain in European waters. Despite being shocking, this is not new news. From data collected in 2014, ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) reports that bycatch of cetaceans has been observed in other gears that have not been subjected to regular monitoring (including bottom trawls, also known to catch common dolphins). Purse-seine nets may be accidentally catching more critically endangered Balearic shearwaters than the population can cope with.  

ICES produce a European marine mammal bycatch report every year. It always makes for gruesome reading and each year I wonder why we can’t do better to catch fish without also accidentally catching large numbers of dolphins, harbour porpoises, seals and seabirds in the nets and on the hooks.

There are rules in place in Europe that require countries to monitor how many marine animals are caught – in some kinds of fishing nets. Some countries didn’t report 2014 data to ICES, including Finland and Spain. A number of other countries provided sub-standard data.

Without adequate data, and so considering existing data biases, it is difficult to understand levels of bycatch, and so the vicious bycatch cycle continues. There are uncertainties in the fishing effort data itself, as well as the marine mammal bycatch data.

The rules that are in place do not work well enough. New rules will be put in place in the coming months and years under the EU’s Data Collection Framework. WDC are doing all we can to ensure that all countries in Europe collect the data that is required to understand fishing effort and levels of bycatch.

ICES advises in its report that dedicated observers or Remote Electronic Monitoring (see this recent REM report) are required for good estimates of protected species bycatch. WDC support this call. Countries need to put measures in place to collect data on fishing effort and bycatch – in all types of fisheries.

We are also demanding ongoing efforts to continually reduce bycatch. It is not enough to consider population level impacts. Being caught in a net is a horrible way for any animal to die. We also want more transparency, so that we can make decisions when we buy fish from our fishmonger or in the supermarket about the way our fish was caught and the sustainability of the fish stock, but also information about other marine species that may be incidentally caught in the process.