- Thousands of porpoises are dying each year in North Sea
fishermen's nets, a report out today reveals. North Shields, Blyth, Cullercoats,
Hartlepool and Whitby were among fishing bases covered by research for
the study, said the RSPCA.
- The organisation said it is believed about 1,000 harbour
porpoises die each year in UK nets in the North Sea and 7,000 in Danish
- The air-breathing porpoises are caught and drown in gill
nets, which are set to catch fish like herring, hake and cod. The nets
are not towed but are hung vertically, and are either anchored to the sea
bed or drift with the tide, ensnaring fish by the gills.
- RSPCA marine wildlife consultant Helen McLachlan said:
"The Government has known about the unacceptable level of deaths and
suffering yet it has failed to introduce measures to reduce the toll.
- "Nets going out of the North-East will be responsible
for some of the level of loss. Although the Government has commissioned
research into this problem it has failed to introduce changes in fishing
practices which are sorely needed. It is estimated the deaths account for
around 6.5pc of the North Sea porpoise population while the maximum rate
of increase for such long-lived and slow breeding animals is 4pc.
- "The problem is when more animals are being taken
than the population's level of recovery. That in time leads to decline
and even extinction," said Ms McLachlan.
- "Each year without action means more unnecessary
suffering. Wherever gill nets are set in waters populated by porpoises
they will be caught and die.
- "We need a reduction in the amount of gill nets
going into the water. We cannot stand by and let this be a case of out
of sight out of mind."
- Barry Deas, chief executive of the National Federation
of Fishermen's Organisations, said the industry was working with the Sea
Mammal Research Unit in St Andrew's Scotland, on ways of tackling the problem.
- "From time to time porpoises and dolphins are caught.
It is a matter of regret but it is like hedgehogs being killed on the roads
- it is a by-product of what we do and it is not intentional.
- "But because of this unintentional by-catch we are
co-operating with the Sea Mammal Unit on finding solutions such as installing
electronic pingers on nets which scare away the porpoises."
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