WDC has joined up with other organisations to help with a new research project looking into the problem of marine mammal entanglement in fishing gear in Scottish waters, which has just been launched.
The first of its kind in Europe, the Scottish Entanglement Alliance (SEA) brings together fishing industry representatives, researchers and conservation and welfare charities to assess the scale and impact of the issue.
By engaging directly with the fishing industry, SEA partners hope to raise awareness of entanglements among fishermen and other marine users, to better understand the extent of entanglements and to encourage better reporting of these incidents.
Capturing fishermen’s knowledge and experience will lead to a better understanding of the issue and create opportunities for fishermen to discuss solutions and best practice.
Entanglement in fishing nets and gear, or ‘bycatch’, is the biggest threat facing dolphins, porpoises and whales. It is a horrific way to die. Whales and dolphins can’t breathe underwater. They panic and can endure terrible wounds and broken bones as they try to escape. When they can’t struggle any more, they close their blowhole and suffocate. Others carry gear with them for months to years as they slowly die from infections and starvation.
Over the next 12 months, SEA project co-ordinator Ellie MacLennan, will be visiting piers and harbours around the coast looking for as much input from the fishing community as possible, with creel fishers being asked to participate in short, informal and anonymous interviews.
Ellie said: “Marine animal entanglement in all types of fishing gear is a global problem that poses a threat to marine life and fishers wherever the two overlap. Here in Scotland, our inshore waters not only provide world-class fishing grounds for creel and trawl fishers, but also habitat for a diverse array of large marine animals including whales, basking sharks and turtles.”
Sarah Dolman from WDC said; “We are pleased to be a member of the Scottish Entanglement Alliance and would encourage all fishermen to report entanglement cases, historic and current, to British Divers Marine Life Rescue or to Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme. We want to work together to learn from and prevent entanglements from happening.“
SEA is a partnership between the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) – part of Scotland’s Rural College, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT), and British Divers Marine Life Rescue(BDMLR), and is funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).