A young, female Common dolphin is just one of the 17 latest victims to die in fishing nets around Cornwall over the last few days. Only 1.5m long, the young dolphin was found on the Roseland Peninsular, while many others, males and females of all ages, were recorded along the south coast.
Every year, the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Marine Strandings Network carries out the grim task of recording, examining and measuring the carcasses. Maddi Precious, who covers the special 24-hour Strandings Hotline and co-ordinates the strandings volunteers, said, “The phone has not stopped ringing. Distressed members of the public keep calling to tell us of yet more bodies and we send out our dedicated volunteers right away. It’s been hard to keep up but luckily we have over 120 people trained to do the work and they’re all so willing to help”.
The volunteer who attended the young female dolphin said, “It’s much worse when you find a small one like this. At first glance, she looked so perfect. She had died so recently that the seagulls hadn’t attacked her and her eyes were still bright. Apart from a few scratches, and a strange, deep hole under chin, her skin was smooth and perfect, except for the obvious fishing net marks around her beak and on her flippers. The only good thing to come out this was that because she was so fresh, we were able to take her, and two others, for post mortem examinations. I don’t doubt for a moment that they will confirm that these dolphins died in fishing nets. We see it year, after year, after year.”
Joana Doyle, Marine Conservation Officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust commented, “Yet again, the slaughter of dolphins has begun and it is apparent that the ban on pair trawlers fishing within the 12 mile shore limit is not working. After all, as we always said, dolphins feeding outside the area are just as likely to be caught, as they don’t know where the limit is! And from the evidence we have collected over many, many years, we have proven that it’s not just the bass pair trawlers that are to blame. Inshore gillnet fishing does kill dolphins and most of those killed over the last few days were found around St Austell Bay, where there is an inshore gillnet fishery. We have also recently had a rare Bottlenose dolphin – the one everyone recognises and loves – that showed evidence of being bycaught in this way.
Joana continued, “Right now, the UK Government is being criticised by the European Commission for not adequately monitoring how effectively they are protecting our populations of cetaceans - whales, dolphins and porpoises. It is obvious to us that what is needed is an outright ban on fishing methods that kill dolphins in such high numbers. We urge the public to keep calling us on the 24-hour Marine Strandings Hotline on 0845 201 2626 if they find a dead dolphin, so that we can continue our work to stop this terrible massacre. If we don’t, Cornwall will eventually lose part of its wonderful wildlife heritage and we’ll all be the poorer for it”.