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Bradshaw intent on dolphin protection measures

Fishing Monthly

28th September 2004

UK FISHERIES Minister Ben Bradshaw has shrugged off lack of Community action on the issue by confirming that the UK wants to go it alone to protect cetaceans.

He said that new measures are being drawn up to help reduce death and injury to dolphins caused by pair trawling techniques used in the fisheries in the South West of England.

These measures will include banning bass pair trawling out to 12 miles and introducing a licensing system for UK vessels within the 12 to 200 miles zone.

Bradshaw said: "I have always maintained that we must take firm action to reduce injury and death to dolphins from this fishery. The UK Government has been at the forefront of the campaign within Europe to encourage Member States to act jointly to protect the wider marine environment. Indeed, I am grateful for the European Commission's recent commitment to find the means to reduce dolphin bycatch deaths."

However, the UK Government is actively pursuing "ideas" to take forward the issue with other Member States.

"But the UK Government wants to take account of its scientific evidence based data now by using a more radical but practical approach to marine environment protection," Bradshaw underlined

He added: "Banning bass pair trawling by UK vessels within 12 miles builds on the European Council regulation the UK Government was instrumental in achieving in March 2004 to protect dolphins and porpoises. The UK will continue to press for future action on a EU wide basis."

The slaughter of dolphins by fishing trawlers will continue unless the EU follows the UK’s lead, the RSPCA is today warning.

The Society said it welcomed Government plans to introduce new measures to restrict and licence the UK sea bass-fishing industry, but RSPCA research shows the peak of dolphin deaths correspond to increased fishing by European boats.

Laila Sadler, RSPCA Scientific Officer, said: “Dolphins and porpoises die agonising deaths as they desperately try to escape the nets.

“But we cannot forget that the UK bass fishery, which is killing dolphins in its trawls, consists of just four boats while the French fishery may have up to 20 in the area.

“Indeed, the peak of dolphin deaths corresponds to high levels of fishing by other European boats.”

The RSPCA says modern non-selective fishing practices kill thousands of porpoises every year in European waters, and many other species including sharks, sea birds, turtles, whales and dolphins, also die.

Record numbers of dolphins and porpoises were washed up on beaches across the southwest in the winter of 2003/4. In the first three weeks of this year, 35 dead porpoises were discovered, more than double the total for whole of January 2003.

These, the RSPCA maintains, are widely believed to have died at the hands of European fishermen trawling for mackerel and sea bass either in pairs or singly.

These are huge nets, which are dragged along catching everything in their wake. When the trawl net narrows as it is hauled in the animals may suffocate or be crushed to death.

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