8th August 2004
The Government has announced emergency measures to end the deaths of thousands of dolphins, which are largely blamed on French fishermen operating off southwest England.
Two years after Countryfile launched an investigation into pair trawling (fishing using giant nets suspended between two boats), DEFRA fisheries minister Mr Bradshaw has called on the EU to ban pair trawling for sea bass in European waters. Bradshaw says that if other EU states refuse to agree to a ban, Britain will take unilateral action to ban pair trawling for sea bass within the UK's 20km territorial limit before the next sea fishing season starts this winter.
Hundreds of dolphins are washed up on Devon beaches every winter. John Craven hears the reaction of campaigners from Brixham Seawatch and the Wildlife Trusts. He also visits northwest France and talks to activists from campaign group Sauvons les Dauphins and to French fishermen who operate the largest fleet of pair trawlers in Europe.
Fishermen in France accept they kill some dolphins but claim the numbers are relatively small and that further research is needed. They argue that any ban on pair trawling for sea bass would be catastrophic for the French fishing industry.
The French Government says it's highly aware of the need to protect dolphins but that the UK's action is "excessive". It thinks it's important to wait for the completion of ongoing research into the bycatch problem before any action is taken. It adds that depending on those findings, it may then be possible to adopt "measures which are both highly selective and reasonable".