29 November 2005

Nets killing 800 whales and dolphins every day

Fishing nets are killing up to 800 whales, dolphins and porpoises every day, according to latest research. A team of marine experts from universities and conservation in the UK and US said bycatch was the biggest danger cetaceans faced.

The majority of the 300,000 cetaceans that die annually in nets drown, die of exhaustion or are attacked by sharks, according to the report. Dr Andrew Read, of Duke University Marine Laboratory in the US, Dr Simon Northridge, of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrew's University in the UK, said deaths could be cut significantly by implementing ways to reduce bycatch.

"This level of bycatch is significantly depleting and disrupting many populations of whales, dolphins and porpoises," said Dr Read, who also co-chairs the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) cetacean bycatch task force. "It will lead to the loss of several species in the next few decades if nothing is done."

WWF said the most endangered species included the European harbour porpoise, baiji dolphins in China, Maui's dolphin in New Zealand and Irrawaddy dolphins in the Philippines.

"There are various ways to tackle the problem – acoustic devices called pingers on gillnets, for example," said Dr Northridge. "Another is to try to persuade the fleets to change their gear or use alternative techniques."

Source: www.divemagazine.co.uk


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