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Mindful conservation – why we need a new respect for nature

'We should look at whales and dolphins as the indigenous people of the seas -...
A dolphin called Arnie with a shell

Dolphins catch fish using giant shell tools

In Shark Bay, Australia, two groups of dolphins have figured out how to use tools...
Common dolphins at surface

Did you know that dolphins have unique personalities?

We all have personalities, and between the work Christmas party and your family get-together, perhaps...
Leaping harbour porpoise

The power of harbour porpoise poo

We know we need to save the whale to save the world. Now we are...
Holly. Image: Miray Campbell

Meet Holly, she’s an incredible orca leader

Let me tell you the story of an awe-inspiring orca with a fascinating family story...
Humpback whale. Image: Christopher Swann

A story about whales and humans

As well as working for WDC, I write books for young people. Stories; about the...
Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
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Port River dolphins

New report reveals 100,000 dolphins and small whales hunted every year

When you hear the words ‘dolphin hunts’ it’s likely that you think of Japan or...

Minke whale hunts stop in Iceland

Iceland’s commercial hunt of minke whales has ended for this year. The common minke whale is the...

Icelandic whalers breach international law and kill iconic, protected whale by mistake

Icelandic whalers out hunting fin whales for the first time in three years appear to...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...

End the whale hunts! Icelandic fin whaler isolated as public mood shifts

Here’s a sight I hoped never again to witness. A boat being scrubbed and repainted...

Australian Government to block Japanese whaling proposal

Japanese Government officials have reportedly confirmed that they will propose the resumption of commercial whaling...

Pregnant whales once again a target for Japanese whalers

Figures from Japan's whaling expedition to Antarctica during the 2017/18 austral summer have revealed that...

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...

SOS alert for whales off Norway!

I have to admit to bitter disappointment when I arrived in Tromsø, northern Norway, a...

Norway's whaling season begins

April 1st saw the start of the whaling season in Norway. Despite a widely-accepted international moratorium...

Norway increases whaling quota despite declining demand

Norway's government has announced an increase in the number of minke whales that can be...

Fishermen arrested after spinner dolphins die in nets off Sri Lanka


I’m particularly saddened and concerned at the recent news that a dozen dolphins have died after being trapped in a beach seine net in the inner harbour at Trincomalee, northeast Sri Lanka.  The dolphins were identified as spinner dolphins by WDC colleague, conservation biologist, Ranil Nanayakkara.  Spinners, possibly the most acrobatic of all dolphin species, are incredibly popular and delight whale watchers off Sri Lanka and elsewhere around the world.

Distressing video taken by an observer shows that some of the dolphins were still alive when the nets were hauled in. All marine mammals in Sri Lankan waters are protected by law and nine local fishermen have been arrested and remain in custody. The fishermen claim that they realised too late that the dolphins were caught in the net.

Beach seine nets, known as ma dela in Sinhala, are seine nets which are operated from shore. The use of beach seine nets is legal here and these fishermen apparently had a licence. However, there are fears that hundreds of dolphins each year may be victims of ‘bycatch’ in nets  – both legal and illegal – in these waters. Indeed, WDC is aware of incidents in both 2013 and 2015, off Kalpitiya to the northwest of the island, when dozens of spinner dolphins died due to illegal fisheries using dynamite and purse seine nets (laila nets).

The problem, sadly, is by no means new. The introduction of nylon fishing nets in the 1960s led to heavy bycatch which killed thousands of dolphins and other small cetacean species in Sri Lankan waters each year and created a ready supply of dolphin meat for use as shark bait, as well as for human consumption. In some regions, local demand for the meat inevitably tempted some fishermen to deliberately target dolphins in order to supplement their income. Despite whales and dolphins being legally protected in Sri Lankan waters since 1993, dolphins have continued to die (both accidentally and occasionally, deliberately) and it is clear that fishing practices around Sri Lanka require urgent review.