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Statement of the European Commission on
"By-catches of dolphins in fishing gear"
11 February 2002
Reference ISEC/2

EU-Fisheries Commissioner Fischler has written to EU Member States,
asking for information on specific actions they are taking to meet
their obligation to protect dolphins.

The Commission is very concerned by the death of dolphins suffocating
in trawl nets, especially since they are a protected species under the
EU Habitats directive.

Under this directive, Member States have the obligation to prevent the
incidental killing of dolphins. Article 12 clearly states that they
have to establish a monitoring system for by-catch and in case of
problems, take necessary protection measures.

The Commission believes that there is an urgent need for action at the
EU level. The EU has already banned the use of drift nets in tuna
fisheries, since 1 January 2002, because of substantial by-catches of
dolphins. The Commission is ready to adopt measures relating to other
fishing activity on the same basis.

However, it is necessary to have scientific details on the impact of
each fishing gear, in specific zones at specific periods of the year
and on the possible mitigation measures in order to decide on
appropriate action to avoid these by-catches. It is also important to
know the incidence of fishing activities on the mortality rate among
dolphins in relation to the overall size of the populations as there is
still a lot of uncertainty about this.

The Commission has already taken action is this respect:

Last year, a Working Group was set up under the aegis of the
Scientific, Economic and Technical Committee on Fisheries (STECF). The
first meeting took place last December and a first report on the
various aspects relating to by-catches should be ready shortly. A
second meeting of experts is scheduled for May 2002.

The Commission also asked the International Council for the Exploration
of the Sea (ICES) for advice on this problem.

Based on this scientific advice, the Commission will take action to
propose targeted measures in order to protect dolphins.


For more information, contact the European Commission's press office in
London on 020 7973 1971.