The Wildlife Trusts are today calling for immediate action from the Government and Fisheries Minister, Elliot Morley, to save the UK's depleting population of dolphins.
In response to the Minister for Fisheries statement yesterday recounting that up to 50 dolphins a day are being drowned in fishing nets, The Wildlife Trusts are calling for an immediate temporary closure of the commercial bass fishery causing dolphin carnage off the south west coast of England.
The Wildlife Trusts support the Government's decision to trial new style fishing equipment but assert that there is also a need to temporarily close the fishery until the trial results are successful in reducing dolphin bycatch numbers. Joan Edwards continued: "Reports from our conservationists' surveys, year on year, reiterate the serious impact of bycatch on dolphin deaths. Already serious damage has been done to the numbers of dolphins in UK waters. It is imperative that dolphin deaths through bycatch are halted."
"Now is not the time to experiment with a new style net alone. This action must be supported by direct and immediate closure of the fishery involved in killing so many dolphins," commented Joan Edwards, The Wildlife Trusts' Marine Policy Director.
The Wildlife Trusts' Seaquest South West, a joint project bringing together several independent researchers with the Cornwall and Devon Wildlife Trusts, has been inundated with reports of stranded dolphins brought to UK shores by recent stormy weather. Members and junior members of The Wildlife Trusts have sent postcards petitioning for Government action.
Urgent Government Action:
· In addition to the development of new style nets and the temporary closure of the fishery, The Wildlife Trusts would like the Government to reduce the number of dolphin deaths by:
· Establishing an independent observer scheme to obtain reliable estimates of total marine mammal bycatch in a fishery.
· Proposing that the Common Fisheries Policy contains clear and measurable commitments to reduce bycatch significantly in the next 5 years.
· Reform subsidies to ensure they support sustainable fishing
· Calling for Government action to make a significant improvement in the way we manage the activities and demands we make on the environment.
To interview Joan Edwards or for further information please contact Liz Woznicki in the press office of The Wildlife Trusts on 0207-921 5407 mobile 07887 754659 or out-of hours pager 07625 101929.
The Wildlife Trusts is a partnership of 47 Wildlife Trusts, across the UK, caring for almost 2,500 nature reserves. The partnership campaigns for the protection of wildlife and invests in the future by helping people of all ages to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of nature. The Wildlife Trusts have a membership of over 366,000 people.