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Dolphin deaths just days after report

Western Morning News

2nd February 2004

Just days after a committee of MPs recommended that pair trawling for bass should be banned in two years' time unless it reduced dolphin bycatch, four of the marine mammals were found dead on Cornwall's south coast.

A member of the public found the carcasses on the beach at Tregantle, on Whitsand Bay, and reported them to Cornwall Wildlife Trust's strandings hotline.

Volunteers went to inspect and measure the animals - likely to be the victims of bycatch - yesterday afternoon.

It is not known whether they were in good enough condition to be removed and sent to the Natural History Museum in London for post-mortem.

With the first four strandings recorded in February, some 61 were recorded in Cornwall last month. Unusually, two-thirds of the strandings were of harbour porpoises many of which, campaigners believe, were bycaught in bottom set gill nets.

Lindy Hingley, founder of Brixham Seawatch, said it was likely the bodies had been brought ashore by South Westerly gales after being caught in the nets of bass pair trawlers working off Plymouth.

"We are going to see this time and time again because of the Government's lack of action," she said. "The report may have recommended a ban in two years' time but that is going to mean the deaths of at least 10,000 dolphins.

"The ones we find have only ever been the tip of the iceberg because most sink to the bottom."

The long-awaited report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs sub-committee, which was chaired by Falmouth and Camborne Labour MP Candy Atherton, has received a mixed reaction from conservationists.

Lib-Dem fisheries spokesman Andrew George, MP for St Ives, said the report was a "welcome contribution to the debate". But, he added: "It is not possible any longer to pretend that we should turn a blind eye to those fishing practices which cause a substantial cetacean bycatch. The primary emphasis should be upon international pressure to either improve the selectivity of existing methods or to ban them."

Stranded cetaceans should be reported to Cornwall Wildlife Trust on 0845 2012626 or Devon Wildlife Trust on 01392 279244