The recent atrocious and pointless killing of more than 1400 dolphins in one day in the Faroe Islands has horrified many while making headlines around the world. This outcry may cause the government to review the regulations regarding dolphin hunt – here’s hoping. Since this is kind of a single murder event, it is relatively easy to stop – hopefully.
The bigger problem, the extent of which many of us may not be aware of, is the large amount dolphin deaths due to bycatch. In the Bay of Biscay alone around 7500 dolphins die due to bycatch each year and that number is growing. It is estimated that 65.000 dolphins have died in fishing nets in the Biscay since the year 2000. If this keeps happening there will be no dolphins left in the bay in 40 years.
The sight of dolphins lying lifeless on the beach or in a fisherman’s net is heart breaking.
However it is not just a matter of dolphins being cute and intelligent animals that we wish to protect. The bodies of drowned dolphins washing up on beaches are also a terribly sad reminder of the general destruction these large fishing nets bring about; dolphins are not the only so-called bycatch (i.e. animals killed for no purpose other than our greedy lust for other species) and the nets dragging along the sea bottom demolishes ecosystem.
When we see dolphins happily jumping at the bow of the boat it is a sign of a healthy and thriving marine ecosystem (at least to some extent). The body of a dead dolphin washing up on a beach is not. Dear fisherman, if thousands of dolphins die each year because of your fishing techniques you’re casting your net too wide (and too deep) my friend.
Unfortunately, this problem is far bigger and far more complex than that and goes beyond the responsibility of the individual fisherman just trying to make a living for himself and his family. It also involves personal responsibility of us as the consumers and as such perhaps not the best front news article. It is such a deep problem related to the modern commercial fishing industry that we have tried to write about in this post Harvesting from the Sea – the Great debate. In short however, overfishing and overexploitation is related to high demands, low cost due to subsidies, lack of regulations and lack of law enforcement. Similar to climate change, overfishing cannot be tackled by individual action itself, but by a combination of actions, spread through the webs of our society. It all starts with knowledge and awareness, then action.
Meanwhile the EU scientific body STECFF (the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries) have confirmed that the EU countries current response to the bycatch of protected species is inadequate and proposed measures by France, Spain and Portugal are insufficient. The EU asked ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) in 2020 to advice on emergency measures to prevent bycatch of the North East Atlantic common dolphin and the Baltic Proper harbour porpoise – now they need to follow up with actual laws and regulations to prevent bycatch.
Please sign the petition to EU Commissioner for Environment, Ocean and Fisheries to stop the mass slaughter of dolphins by the fishing industry in EU waters.