- Dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean are threatened with extinction
as a result of new fishing techniques that are more dangerous than drift
nets, according to French scientists.
- The warning comes after the bodies of about 400 dead
dolphins were washed up on western French beaches over the past fortnight.
- "What we see is only the tip of the iceberg,"
Anne Collet, head of the centre for research on Marine Mammals at La Rochelle,
- "A vast majority of the dead dolphins sink to the
bottom of the sea. We estimate that thousands are killed every year in
this way." She said that, with the latest research suggesting total
stocks in the Atlantic of about 130,000 dolphins, "there won't be
any left in 20 years' time if we carry on like this".
- At the centre of the problem are said to be French and
Spanish trawlers, which drag funnel-shaped pelagic nets, which can be more
than 100 yards wide, in search of anchovies, hake, herring, bass and other
- Mme Collet said the number of dead dolphins seen on French
beaches had increased six-fold since the introduction of pelagic nets at
the end of the 1980s.
- They pick up everything that crosses their path, including
the dolphins, which are asphyxiated because, as mammals, they need to come
up to the surface to breathe every ten to 15 minutes.
- At La Rochelle yesterday, fishermen were wary of discussing
the problem, although a few admitted to catching "the odd dolphin"
in their nets. "The real problem is over-production, which is destroying
the fish stocks, which is in turn pushing trawlermen to look for boats
which are more powerful and more sophisticated, " Fabien Dulon, the
head of the trawlermen's co-operative in La Rochelle, said.
- "The solution would be a two-year moratorium - but
who would pay for us to sit around and do nothing?"
- SIGHTINGS HOMEPAGE
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