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By Sarah Sharkey
It’s dolphin awareness month, but apparently not everyone loves dolphins. This is unfortunate because they are amazingly intelligent creatures that could probably teach us a few things.
But while we think dolphins are awesome, fishermen of the coast of Sicily definitely do not like them as much.
The fishermen have been seeing a decline in the number of fish and squid they can catch, and they are blaming the dolphins. Not only are they blaming the cetaceans, but some fishermen are taking matters into their own hands and shooting them. The evidence of this is in the increasing amount of dead dolphins that wash ashore with a spear or bullet hole in their bodies, despite the fact that this particular species of dolphin is protected.
The fishermen argue that the dolphins have learned how to raid their nets and are calling on the government to step in and compensate them. Giovanni Tumbiolo, a fishermen on an island off of Sicily says, “There’s been too much protection of the dolphins. It’s created a confrontation between fishermen and dolphins, who are competing for the few fish that remain in the sea.” Other fishermen agree that it is not that they have anything against the dolphins, they are just responding to their livelihoods being threatened.
One of the biggest areas of conflict is around the Aeolian Islands, which is a remote archipelago that relies on fishing and tourism to support its inhabitants. The fishermen there are understandably upset, but biologists say that the dolphin population has not had a significant increase (and they’ve been watching this population for over 15 years).
Monica Blasi, Aeolian based biologist says, “The problem is that there are less fish in the sea, a result of years of bad management. As a result the dolphins have adapted and have learned to feed closer to the nets and the boats.”
Blasi does agree that the fishermen should receive compensation and is helping to develop ways to deter dolphins from raiding nets. One idea that will be tested is the attachment of a device, pinger, to the fishing nets. These pingers emit a frequency that will deter dolphins, but will not affect the fish. The pinger will not harm the dolphins it will just help to keep them away from the fishermen and their equipment.
Senator Raffaele Ranucci said “It shouldn’t have to be a choice between the fishermen and the dolphins. We need to find solutions as quickly as possible that will combine respect for the environment and marine wildlife with the needs of the fishermen.”