New Fishing Nets
Could Wipe Out Atlantic
Dolphins - Hundreds Dead Already
By Adam Sage in La Rochelle
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, said.
"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 fish.
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?"


This Site Served by TheHostPros