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Vaquita. Photo Thomas Jefferson

Scientific Committee gives first ever official species extinction warning

Photo: Thomas Jefferson We have welcomed the urgent call by experts to protect the vaquita...
blue whale

Whale fossil from Peru may have been heavier than blue whale

Scientists examining the bones of a 39 million-year-old ancient whale have concluded that it may...
Humpback whale © Christopher Swann

Humpback whales breach in synchronisation

Humpback whales are renowned for their incredible acrobatic displays, but a family in the USA...
Long-finned pilot whale

Unusual activity witnessed before pilot whale stranding

Just days after a pod of long-finned pilot whales stranded on an island in the...
All policy news
  • All policy news
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Stop whaling
  • Strandings
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...

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...

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...

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

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

Norway's whaling season begins

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

SOS alert for whales off Norway!

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

Icelandic fin whale hunting to resume

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

Latest UK report highlights lack of action to stop hundreds of dolphins dying in fishing nets

The latest report on the numbers of dolphins and porpoises killed in fishing nets and gear in waters around the UK reveals the estimated total caught accidentally by the UK fishing industry is still alarming high, and highlights that too little is being done to stop these unnecessary deaths.

The report, released by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) estimates that 285 common dolphins were caught in UK gillnets alone in 2016, a similar number to previous years. No estimates are provided for the numbers of dolphins accidentally caught in trawlers. In addition, about 1200-1482 porpoises were reported caught in UK gillnet fisheries, depending on whether pingers (acoustic devices attached to nets to drive marine mammals away) were in use.

As data is limited, there is a lack of confidence in the numbers of deaths that are reported. The number of stranded dolphins alone indicates real figures are likely to be far higher, particularly for common dolphins that die in large numbers in the south west of the UK and wider area each year. Dolphins are also caught in the nets of other nation’s vessels fishing in and around UK waters.

The report highlights the benefits of pinger use and reductions in porpoise deaths where they are employed in gillnets. Pingers are required on some vessels under EU regulation, but are the only method used by UK fishing fleets to reduce the numbers of marine mammals dying in nets.

Pingers will also drive porpoises away from important feeding grounds, and so there are uncertainties and concerns around their use, particularly in protected areas. In addition, the use of pingers is not fully enforced to ensure the batteries on the devices are working and appropriately set to be effective.

 ‘This annual report once again shows not just an indication of how many deaths are occurring, but also how few solutions are being employed to reduce the toll’, says WDC’s Sarah Dolman. ‘Pingers are not yet proven for dolphins and, although some fishermen are using them voluntarily on gillnets deployed from small vessels and trawlers, and we wholeheartedly support all voluntary efforts to reduce dolphin and porpoise deaths, there is no requirement for this so the approach is piecemeal. We need to use all effective solutions available – and urgently where scientists have shown that bycatch levels may be having a population level effect, such as for common dolphins off the southwest.


‘Whilst the UK is following the letter of the EU law, and does more than most other member states, clearly we are not doing enough. Fisheries Minister, George Eustice has publically stated the government’s commitment to improve bycatch efforts, which is very welcome news. It is important that the UK does more to continually reduce the numbers of dolphins and porpoises dying in fishing gear each year and we look forward to working with them and the fishing industry to achieve this aim.’

 ‘These deaths have continued for decades’, says Dolman. Pingers do the job of scaring some porpoises away from nets but there are other consequences that need to be addressed. Consideration needs to be given to more sophisticated solutions like using pingers alongside other approaches including restricting fishing in certain areas of high densities of dolphins or porpoises at certain times of the year where bycatch occurs.

‘Despite the evidence and recent reviews by scientific experts and the EU Commission that monitoring and mitigation measures are not currently fit for purpose, we are concerned that bycatch measures will not be improved at the EU level, and they are clearly not doing enough to act on this either. In the UK and across the EU, we need to evaluate and increase monitoring and bycatch reduction efforts’