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Nets threaten to wipe out dolphins
Sunday Herald

By James Hamilton
16th March 2003

The rotting carcasses of hundreds of dolphins killed in fishing nets are washing up on Britain's beaches each year.
French fishermen admitted the mammals were getting trapped in their nets during pair trawling -- a process in which a giant net, up to half a mile wide, is slung between two trawlers for between six and eight hours. Scientists estimate that as many as 50 dolphins can be trapped and die in a single haul.

Pair trawling in the northeast Atlantic results in the dead animals being washed up on the coasts of the southwest of England, Ireland and parts of France. A total of 187 dolphin and porpoise carcasses were found in Devon and Cornwall between January 1 and yesterday, the Devon Wildlife Trust said. Campaigners fear hundreds more are drifting out to sea and going unnoticed.

Trawlerman Nathalie Cabrel said: 'It's a problem when you catch a dolphin, so often you cut open the stomach so that it sinks and doesn't float on to the beach so that nobody knows. Other fishermen keep the flesh to eat and throw away the bones.'

Another former fisherman, Manex Laulie, from Biarritz in southwest France, said: 'Practically every day we catch dolphins. Sometimes it's a lot, sometimes not at all -- it can go from zero to 20 or 30.'

France has the largest pair trawling fleet in Europe, with 60 vessels fishing in this particular way, but increasing numbers of British and Irish trawlers are adopting the technique.

French fisheries minister Hervé Gaymard denied any knowledge of the problem.

But Mary Stuart, of the European Cetacean Bycatch Campaign, argued that killing the dolphins destroyed the ocean's natural balance.

She said: 'Evidence from around the world shows that if you remove top predators from an ecosystem you affect populations of species they would normally prey on and the whole ecosystem is disrupted. Ultimately they are going to have to ban pair trawling. What we're seeing is the systematic slaughter of a species.'

Research by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and submitted to the European Commission warned that a 1.7% reduction in dolphins could cause the population to collapse.

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