Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Fundraising
  • Green Whale
  • Kids blogs
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
Orcas in Australia

Did orcas help rescue entangled humpback whale?

Kidzone - quick links Fun Facts Our Goals Curious kids Kids blogs Fantastic fundraisers Gallery...
An orca named 'Hulk' off Caithness, Scotland

My amazing week watching orcas in Scotland

Orca Watch's 10th anniversary event in the far north of Scotland was exhilarating with a...

Faroes dolphin hunt review – disappointing is an understatement

I wasn't alone in hoping that substantial changes would be made as a result of...
Minke whale - V Mignon

We told them this would happen! Time to halt cruel whale experiments

An ill-conceived and so far ill-fated joint US/ Norwegian experiment to test minke whales' reaction...
Sponging dolphin in Shark Bay

Dolphins who catch fish with shells

Kidzone - quick links Fun Facts Our Goals Curious kids Kids blogs Fantastic fundraisers Gallery...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...
We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Humpback whale underwater

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...

European fishing continues to threaten dolphins and porpoises

Fishing activities involving pelagic trawling and static net fisheries may be incidentally killing more common dolphins than their populations can sustain in European waters. Despite being shocking, this is not new news. From data collected in 2014, ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) reports that bycatch of cetaceans has been observed in other gears that have not been subjected to regular monitoring (including bottom trawls, also known to catch common dolphins). Purse-seine nets may be accidentally catching more critically endangered Balearic shearwaters than the population can cope with.  

ICES produce a European marine mammal bycatch report every year. It always makes for gruesome reading and each year I wonder why we can’t do better to catch fish without also accidentally catching large numbers of dolphins, harbour porpoises, seals and seabirds in the nets and on the hooks.

There are rules in place in Europe that require countries to monitor how many marine animals are caught – in some kinds of fishing nets. Some countries didn’t report 2014 data to ICES, including Finland and Spain. A number of other countries provided sub-standard data.

Without adequate data, and so considering existing data biases, it is difficult to understand levels of bycatch, and so the vicious bycatch cycle continues. There are uncertainties in the fishing effort data itself, as well as the marine mammal bycatch data.

The rules that are in place do not work well enough. New rules will be put in place in the coming months and years under the EU’s Data Collection Framework. WDC are doing all we can to ensure that all countries in Europe collect the data that is required to understand fishing effort and levels of bycatch.

ICES advises in its report that dedicated observers or Remote Electronic Monitoring (see this recent REM report) are required for good estimates of protected species bycatch. WDC support this call. Countries need to put measures in place to collect data on fishing effort and bycatch – in all types of fisheries.

We are also demanding ongoing efforts to continually reduce bycatch. It is not enough to consider population level impacts. Being caught in a net is a horrible way for any animal to die. We also want more transparency, so that we can make decisions when we buy fish from our fishmonger or in the supermarket about the way our fish was caught and the sustainability of the fish stock, but also information about other marine species that may be incidentally caught in the process.