How will we stop dolphins, porpoises and whales dying in fishing gear in UK seas?
18 May 2017 - 9:28am
We’ve been busy since we launched our campaign!
We’re determined to make sure appropriate laws are in place to protect dolphins, porpoises and whales from fishing gear in UK seas post-Brexit.
If you are one of the tens of thousands of people who have signed our Care2 petition – thank you! If you haven’t yet signed and shared, please sign now, it’s quick and easy to do.
Hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales and porpoises die in fishing gear every year, thousands in UK waters. But it’s not an easy problem to solve. No fisherman wants to catch a dolphin. We need to work with the fishing industry and with the UK governments to find ways to monitor and measure accidental entanglements (known as ‘bycatch’). And we need to find processes and technology that will reduce deaths, and ultimately stop them.
For a campaign like this, it’s important for us to cultivate good relationships with the key political players. These are the people who will influence and make decisions. Sarah Dolman leads WDC’s ‘Ending Bycatch’ team and this campaign. A key part of her job is to equip decision-makers with the knowledge and background that they need to make informed choices.
We have written to the relevant Ministers in England, Scotland, Wales to explain our aims and ask for their support. We’ve also been in touch with the relevant government departments in each country, as well as the government agencies responsible for the marine environment. We need to ensure that they are all informed about our petition and the strength of public feeling. And she makes sure they understand our concerns about the inadequacy of the measures in place to protect dolphins, porpoises and whales from fishing gear in UK seas.
In Scotland, one of the major issues is whale entanglements in the lines used to secure lobster pots to the sea bed. Minke whales and humpbacks get caught up in these creel lines and we’re working with a range of partners to try to stop this. Since our petition went live, we have collectively produced a ‘best practice guide’ for all creel fishermen to keep in their wheel house. This handy tool gives practical advice that can help them set and retrieve their pots in a way that reduces the risk to whales and to report any incidences that occur so we can save as many whales as possible and are better informed about those who die.
The measures that ‘protect’ whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK seas come from a European Regulation called the ‘Common Fisheries Policy’. The bycatch part of this Policy is under review at the moment. New ‘technical conservation measures’ are being negotiated at a European level. Whatever protection measures come out of this review are highly likely to be the basis of any new laws in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, once Britain has left the EU.
This means that much of Sarah’s time and effort is currently focussed on Europe. We need to influence the review and make the new EU legislation as strong as possible. We need to do this to ensure that protection in EU waters is as good as it can be, but also to make sure that come Brexit, the national UK laws we are pushing for are strong and fit for purpose and will give whales and dolphins in UK waters the protection they need and deserve.
Our attention will be focused on the European process until it is completed, possibly in the autumn. We will be asking for your help to influence this at key stages in the coming months, so watch this space. At the same time we are keeping our ear to the ground to find out what the thinking is within the governments of the UK on new national laws post-Brexit.
Our plan has been to meet with George Eustice, the government Minister responsible for fisheries at Westminster, in the autumn to present our petition and represent you and the tens of thousands of people who have joined our campaign. Now we have a general election in a few weeks, we don’t know who will be in this position but we will work with whoever is in power in Westminster and also in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make sure that dolphins, whales and porpoises are safe to make their homes and raise their families in the seas around the UK.