Mutilated dolphins wash up off the coast of France in record numbers

An activist group and a French ocean observatory are warning that record number of mutilated dolphins are washing up off the coast of France with most of the injuries as the result of fishing nets.

The dolphins have been found washed up on French beaches over the last three months and both groups say the number may be even much higher. The Pélagis scientific observatory estimates that 80% of the dolphins killed sink at sea and never reach the shore.

Sea Shepherd France says dolphins live on the spawning grounds of bars in the midst of where many trawlers rake the area.

Since the winter of 2017, strandings of small cetaceans along the Atlantic coastline have recorded record numbers. During the first 3 months of 2017 (January to March), correspondents for the observatory recorded 846 dead small cetaceans including 90% of common dolphins. The largest numbers were recorded along the coasts of Charente Maritime and Vendée, and included 60% of strandings observed on the entire facade. Saint-Hilaire de Riez (Vendee)

Nearly 90% of the animals allowed for a thorough examination revealed death by asphyxiation in fishing gear. The year 2018 was marked by the same phenomenon, as nearly 700 small cetaceans (mainly common dolphins) were found stranded between January and April; again almost 60% of them surveyed along the coasts of Vendée and Charente-Maritime. And again, more than 80% of the animals examined in an early state of decomposition found death by accidental capture.

Since the beginning of 2019 and up to March 18, the observatory says they’ve found nearly 1,100 strandings of small cetaceans (about 95% of common dolphins) have been examined by the RNE on the Atlantic coast.

These events started in mid-January, with around 250 dolphins stranded along the coast of the Landes and Gironde. From the beginning of February, strandings were then detected on the beaches of Vendée and Charente-Maritime, where more than 260 dolphins were recorded. Again, the vast majority of dolphins examined showed traces of dead in the fishing gear. After a relative calm during the second half of February, reports were again numerous with more than 450 strandings recorded since the beginning of March.

To date, over the same period, the year 2019 presents a new record number of strandings of small cetaceans on the historical series (almost 40 years old).

The Pelagis Observatory says it is continuing analysis to identify the fisheries on common dolphin mortality areas. Although pelagic trawlers have for many years been concerned by the accidental capture of dolphins, this winter the fishing effort was low before mid-February.

We now know that other fisheries are also involved

The results of this work as well as the examination of some very fresh dolphins show traces of catches that seem to be related to entanglement in gillnets. The species targeted by these fisheries in winter are for the most part the hake (majority) and the bar.

The observatory issued a statement saying special attention should also be paid to the large Spanish trawlers operating on the continental shelf of the Bay of Biscay.


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