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Detective work needed on which nets kill dolphins

Western Morning News

23rd January 2006
The founder of a group which campaigns to safeguard dolphins off the Westcountry coast hopes to make a "detective leap" in finding which forms of fishing are responsible for the deaths.  After another dead dolphin was washed up on Leas Foot beach at Thurlestone, South Devon, Lindy Hingley, of Brixham Seawatch, said more "investigative" work must be done.

Last week, there were reports that more than 25 dolphin carcasses had been found on Cornwall's beaches, with another two in Devon.

Wildlife groups in the region say the number is sure to rise over the next few weeks as French and Scottish pair trawlers move up the Channel at the start of the annual bass fishing season.

Ms Hingley is sure the dolphin found at Thurlestone on Friday morning died as a result of pair trawling.  However, she believes not all dolphin deaths are being caused by pair trawling, but also by fishermen using gill nets.

She said: "When fishermen catch monkfish or ray fish they need to use big nets such as tangle netting which is set in the water.  The dolphins swim into the nets, and although their injuries aren't as horrific as being caught by the trawlers, they still suffer the immense torture of suffocation and end up drowning.

"The vets have been brilliant, but they still don't understand the different forms of fishing methods, and that is the next step we need to take.  More detective work needs to be done so we can see who's doing what damage.  Every dolphin is so important, but we cannot afford to be wrong because it affects so many people's livelihoods."

Chief executive of the South Western Fish Producers' Organisation Jim Portus said: "I don't have enough expertise on the subject but I can't really see how there is a distinction between the two types of injury or whether there is any evidence that the dolphins are dying from different types of nets.

"This needs further investigation.  Most carcasses are taken to the National Marine Aquarium to see how they met their end, but the evidence to date points the finger at the pair trawlers."