Record 1,100 dolphins wash up on French shores this year

Activists say a common practice is for fishermen to cut body parts off the suffocated dolphins

The dolphins’ bodies were horribly mutilated, the fins cut off.

But what shocked French marine researchers wasn’t just the brutality of the deaths of these highly intelligent mammals, but also the numbers involved — a record 1,100 have washed up on France’s Atlantic coast since January.

The mass deaths, widely blamed on aggressive industrial fishing, have alarmed animal welfare groups and prompted France’s ecology minister to launch a national plan to protect them.

“There’s never been a number this high,” said Willy Daubin, a member of La Rochelle University’s National Center for Scientific Research. “Already in three months, we have beaten last year’s record, which was up from 2017 and even that was the highest in 40 years.”

Though Daubin said 90 per cent of the fatalities resulted from accidental capture in industrial nets, the reason behind the spike this year is a mystery.

“What fishing machinery or equipment is behind all these deaths?” he asked.

Autopsies carried out on the dolphins this year by La Rochelle University’s National Center for Scientific Research show extreme levels of mutilation.

Activists say a common practice is for fishermen to cut body parts off the suffocated dolphins after they are pulled up on the nets, to save the net itself.

French Ecology Minister Francois de Rugy rushed last Friday to La Rochelle in an attempt to lower the number dying as a result of human action. He’s under pressure not least because of French President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-ecology stance and oft-quoted slogan to “Make the Planet Great Again.”

Rugy has come up with some plans, including bolstering research into existing acoustic repellent devices in place in some 26 two-vessel trawlers off the Bay of Biscay, an industrial fishing hub in the Atlantic Ocean. When activated, the devices send unpleasant signals to nearby dolphins that cause them to swim away.

But animal rights group Sea Shepherd said they do not go far enough, and has already decried such measures as “useless.”

It claims many of the trawlers they watch in the region don’t activate the repellent devices owing to fears they will scare off valuable fish as well, and operators only turn them on if they are checked by an “onboard observer.”

It also said that increasing the number of devices is no long-term solution for the underwater mammals as the move would make the ocean an uninhabitable drum of noise pollution.

“The government needs to take responsibility and act — especially Macron, who said he wanted to protect ecology,” Lamya Essemlali, President of Sea Shepherd France, told The Associated Press.

She pointed to scientists who predict the current rates of fishing will likely drive the dolphin population to extinction.

“The spotlight has been put on the trawlers that fish for sea bass …, which is a scandal. But they were not the only ones responsible.”

She suggested that aggressive hake fishing, which was given the green light three years ago after long ban, was a major factor. The spike in dolphin deaths also began three years ago.

Sea Shepherd explained the ecological crisis as stemming from unprecedented demand for low-cost fish.

“Right now, the sea bass that is being caught by the trawlers that kill dolphins, you can find on the French market for eight euros-per-kilo ($4-per-pound),” she said.

Global seafood consumption has more than doubled in the past 50 years, according to European Commission, a rate that rights groups have branded unsustainable.

Thomas Adamson, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Experts suggest Esquimalt explores hub-and-spoke medical clinic model

Dr. Eileen Pepler says Esquimalt is in a ‘dire’ situation for medical care accessibility

‘Preliminary’ discussions with Saanich identify public works yard as potential velodrome site

Greater Victoria Velodrome Association’s David Atwell says site ‘is of great interest to us’

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps appointed to BC Transit board of directors

Helps joins six other board members, four of which are locally elected officials

Unveiling of Greater Victoria bus-tracking app delayed

NextRide won’t be coming to Greater Victoria until July

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria receives $2.8M Anthony Thorn donation

Victoria News article inspires hefty donation for gallery expansion

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Prince George sweeps to first-ever BC Hockey League crown

Spruce Kings beat Vernon Vipers 3-1 in the Okanagan Wednesday for 13th straight playoff win

Hwang’s first MLS goal lifts Whitecaps to 1-0 win over LAFC

Vancouver picks up first victory of season

Child-proof your windows ahead of warm weather: B.C. expert

Fifteen children were taken to BC Children’s Hospital for falls in 2018

B.C. trucker pleads guilty to lesser charges in fatal Manitoba crash

Gurjant Singh was fined $3,000 and given a one-year driving prohibition.

Study links preschool screen time to behavioural and attention problems

The research looked at more than 2,400 families

Island man guilty of child porn charges, Crown alleges 250,000 images

Psychiatric assessment requested by Crown, sentencing to be set June 4 in Nanaimo court

Most Read