The Natural History Museum are currently licensed by Defra to investigate and analyse all reports of whale and dolphin strandings around the UK coast. They respond to every reported finding (tel. 020 7942 5155) and aim to determine the cause of the stranding by carrying out on site investigation and even autopsies when the condition of the carcass allows.

The latest Defra bycatch mitigation consultation document is based on the findings for 2002. The report for 2003 is currently being written and will be published on their website as soon as it becomes available (probably the end of May).

The Greenpeace website reported on Saturday Feb 7th 2004 that the largest ship in the Greenpeace fleet, the Esperanza, is currently observing and documenting the activities of the bass pair trawler fishing fleet operating in the Western Approaches. On Friday 6th of February 2004 the vessel discovered five dead dolphins in the vicinity of two sets of pair trawlers. All of the dolphins, found 20 miles off the coast of Plymouth, had cuts to their beaks, fins and flippers suggesting obvious entrapment in nets.

The Bournemouth Evening Echo reported on February 11th 2004 that in an article written by Paula Tagerdine, over the weekend of 7/8th February 2004, another five dead dolphins were washed up along Dorset beaches. Two common dolphins at Warbarrow Bay, a Bottlenosed Dolphin at Peveril Point in Swanage, and a further two Common Dolphins on Chesil Beach. Over the past week 109 dead dolphins have been found by people along the Cornish coast … and these are the reported findings (source: Jenny Waldron of the Southern Marine Life Rescue).

Nets Could Drive Dolphins to Extinction in Atlantic

From The Times February 29, 2000 by Adam Sage

La Rochelle – Dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean are threatened with extinction as a result of new fishing techniques that are more dangerous than drift nets, according to French scientists. The warning comes after the bodies of about 400 dead dolphins were washed up on western French beaches over the past fortnight. What we see is only the tip of the iceberg, Anne Collet, head of the center for research on Marine Mammals at La Rochelle, said. A vast majority of the dead dolphins sink to the bottom of the sea. We estimate that thousands are killed every year in this way. She said that, with the latest research suggesting total stocks in the Atlantic of about 130,000 dolphins, there won’t be any left in 20 years’ time if we carry on like this.

At the centre of the problem are said to be French and Spanish trawlers, which drag funnel-shaped pelagic nets, which can be more than 100 yards wide, in search of anchovies, hake, herring, bass and other fish. Mme. Collet said the number of dead dolphins seen on French beaches had increased six-fold since the introduction of pelagic nets at the end of the 1980s. They pick up everything that crosses their path, including the dolphins, which are asphyxiated because, as mammals, they need to come up to the surface to breathe every ten to 15 minutes.

At La Rochelle yesterday, fishermen were wary of discussing the problem, although a few admitted to catching the odd dolphin in their nets. The real problem is over-production, which is destroying the fish stocks, which is in turn pushing trawlermen to look for boats which are more powerful and more sophisticated, Fabien Dulon, the head of the trawlermen’s co-operative in La Rochelle, said. The solution would be a two-year moratorium – but who would pay for us to sit around and do nothing?