Featured Image Credit: Dolphin Destination
By Alice Morris
Dead dolphins are washing up on British beaches at an alarming rate in what many wildlife groups are calling a “massacre.”
In the past six weeks alone, 106 dolphins have appeared on Cornwall beaches according to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. It is the largest number of dolphin fatalities seen in over a decade.
In 2016, a total of 205 dolphins washed up on the coast, and fewer than 100 dolphins washed up in the two previous years.
Fishing trawlers are to blame for many of the killings, and activists and fishermen are calling for action to put an end to the dolphin fatalities.
“It’s murder,” says Lindy Hingley, founder of Brixham Sea Watch. “It’s a massacre. It takes 20 minutes for them to die and it’s an appalling death.” She added that many dolphins break their own backs trying to escape from the trawling nets.
Common dolphins often fall victim to big trawlers that are out fishing for mackerel, herring, bass, and sprats, the same fish that the dolphins are hunting for in large groups close to shore. The dolphins become caught in the trawling nets while hunting and suffocate when they are unable to escape.
Trawlers in Cornwall and Plymouth have captured dozen of dolphins since Christmas and many fishermen are concerned about the rate of fatalities.
“All the boats around here have been bringing up dead dolphins,” said Martin Thomas, a trawlerman based in Polperro. “We have all towed up the odd dead dolphin in the past and talked about it in the pub. But now it’s not a rare occurrence.”
A spokesman from the Marine Management Organization says that they are working with other organizations to solve the problem, but Dr. Nick Treganza, a scientist at the University of Exeter says more needs to be done.
“There needs to be more intensive observation of those fisheries to see what the by-catch rate is and whether measures are being properly applied,” he said.
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