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
Humpback whale. Image: Christopher Swann

A story about whales and humans

As well as working for WDC, I write books for young people. Stories; about the...
Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whale (balaenoptera physalus) Three fin whales Gulf of California.

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...

Bycatch – back on the agenda

You have likely seen in the media that common dolphins are washing ashore, dead, in droves in the southwest of England this winter. Not all of them have been caught in fishing nets accidentally, but some of them have. They are washing ashore elsewhere in the north east Atlantic too, including in large numbers in France and in Ireland


Accidental entanglement in fishing gear is the biggest killer of whales, dolphins and porpoises globally. Around the world, hundreds of thousands of them suffer this horrific death every year.

There are lots of questions. How many die in fishing gear, but don’t wash ashore? How many bodies wash up, but aren’t reported? This recent paper provides some alarming evidence of the scale of our bycatch issue.   

Why does this continue to happen – decades after fisheries bycatch has been identified as being the cause of large numbers of dolphin and porpoise deaths? And importantly, what are we doing about it?

Well, the European Parliament has begun reviewing the measures it has in place to prevent these deaths under the Common Fisheries Policy. We hope that the new policy will be more robust than the one currently in place (more on this another time) – including better monitoring and mitigation, to help us to solve the bycatch issue for common dolphins and for other species. And this is what we are lobbying in Europe for. Whatever comes out of the current EU review is likely to form the basis of future UK / devolved fisheries measures to deal with whale, dolphin and porpoise bycatch.

At the same time, this important paper has been released that reminds us why it is important for management decisions surrounding marine mammals to consider the welfare of the individuals. It also describes the worrying ‘erosion’ of welfare from UK marine conservation policy, providing bycatch and noise pollution examples. 

We need a more compassionate approach to management of our seas and its inhabitants. In conclusion, the paper states that we need “to work together to develop conservation policies and practice based on the best available science (and knowledge, generally). Such a development would, among other things, ensure that animal welfare becomes an integral part of decision-making in modern conservation practice.” I couldn’t agree more.  

You can play your part in helping to stop these needless deaths in UK waters. In the coming weeks, we will be launching a major new campaign. To be first to find out how you can help, sign up to our email newsletter.

Thanks to Blue Planet Society for alerting us to the French and Irish news pieces.