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European Cetacean Bycatch Campaign.

The Bycatch of Cetaceans in European Waters.

Cetaceans are protected under the Bern, Bonn (ASCOBANS, and ACCOBAMS), and Biological Diversity Conventions, the Habitats and Species Directive (92/43/EEC) and are treated as having Appendix I Status CITES, within the European Union. In the UK, they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.  

However, each year, tens of thousands of cetaceans die in European waters due to incidental capture in fishing gear (bycatch).  The true extent of the bycatch problem is not known, as many fleets prohibit observers from boarding their vessels.  Bycatch poses one of the most serious threats to dolphins, porpoises and whales.  Although unacceptable bycatch levels have been identified in European waters, very little has been done by Member States to reduce these levels.

The European Common Fisheries Policy must be amended to incorporate a Cetacean Bycatch Response Strategy, which should include:
1) The mandatory placement of independent observers on board a representative sample of vessels in fisheries with the potential to cause bycatch, in order to identify problem fisheries.
2) The establishment of bycatch response teams, responsible for devising programmes of bycatch reduction measures, to meet set targets and time frames, and for monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of these programmes.  
3) The restriction or closure of fisheries failing to meet the targets within the given time frame.  
4) Enforcement of bycatch reduction measures throughout the EU.  

Enforcement of bycatch reduction measures has been shown to be highly successful.

In 1994, it was estimated that 2100 harbour porpoises were killed in the Gulf of Maine (US) gillnet fisheries each year. In January 1999, a bycatch response programme was put into effect. The deaths of harbour porpoises were reduced to 270.

In the US Mid-Atlantic gillnet fishery, it was estimated that an average of 358 harbour porpoises were killed in nets each year (1995 - 1998). After the introduction of a bycatch response  programme in 1999, the estimated bycatch for that year was 49 harbour porpoises.

In 1972 it was estimated that 423,678 dolphins were killed in the tuna purse seine fishery in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.  As a result of the enforcement of bycatch reduction measures, the preliminary estimate of dolphins killed in this fishery in the year 2000 was 1,636 (estimates provided by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna   Commission).

The European Cetacean Bycatch Campaign urges the British Government to comply fully with the Habitat and Species Directive (92/43/EEC), and to take the lead within the European Union to ensure that provisions are made within the Common Fisheries Policy for the effective monitoring and mitigation of cetacean bycatch.