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How many more must die?

Western Morning News

9th February 2004

Exasperated campaigners demanding a ban on bass pair trawling to save dolphins from fishing nets have pointed to the latest find of dead cetaceans and are asking: "How much more proof do we need?"

They hit out as five dead dolphins were spotted in the vicinity of two sets of bass pair trawlers in the Channel by pressure group Greenpeace.

The dolphins were pulled, still bleeding, onto inflatable boats.

Observers on the Greenpeace boat Esperanza saw the dead mammals 20 miles off the coast of Plymouth, Devon, on Friday morning.

Each dolphin had injuries, such as broken beaks and damaged dorsal fins and flippers, to suggest they had been caught in fishing nets, said Greenpeace.

A spokesperson said the find near bass pair trawlers, which are commonly used by French and Scottish fishermen, was evidence which should further the group's calls for observers on all bass pair trawlers in working to reduce bycatch to zero.

The Greenpeace spokesman said: "There are three things here: the fact the dead bodies were seen close to the bass pair trawlers; the fact they all showed injuries - damaged beaks and fins - which point to being caught in a net, and a piece of net found nearby. We hope this will take us further to getting observers on all bass pair trawlers."

Dr Nick Tregenza of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: "We know from the Government's own observations these boats are catching animals.

"Hopefully, Greenpeace bringing back pictures from the vicinity will add to the pressure on the Government to act."

Around 85 dolphins have been washed up on Westcountry beaches so far this year.

This latest find of floating dead dolphins comes just days after campaigner Lindy Hingley, founder of Brixham Seawatch, called for an inquiry into dolphin deaths. She said it appeared fishermen were cutting off the head and tail in attempt to sink the dolphins and stop them being found to disguise the effects of sea bass pair trawling.

But last night she said footage of boats hauling in dolphins was the only thing that would get results.

She said: "The only thing to save the dolphins now is to have that footage. It's time to go for broke."

A recent report by a Commons committee, chaired by Falmouth and Camborne MP Candy Atherton, recommended that Ministers should close the fishery in two years if incidents of bycatch did not fall to "an acceptable level".

The Esperanza is currently part of a joint project with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society to track bass pair trawlers.