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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...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...
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Minke whale hunts stop in Iceland

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

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...

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...

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...

Icelandic fin whale hunting to resume

Iceland’s only fin whaling company, Hvalur hf,  announced today that it will resume fin whaling...

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.