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EU scientific body confirms stronger measures are needed to protect dolphins and porpoises from death in nets

Common Dolphin

The expert body that provides scientific advice to the European Commission on the management of fisheries has confirmed that stronger measures are needed to protect common dolphins in the Bay of Biscay and Baltic Proper harbour porpoises.

An evaluation by the EU’s Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) backs up concerns from a number organisations (including WDC) that the response by some EU countries to the huge numbers of these porpoises and dolphins being caught in fishing nets (known as bycatch) is inadequate.

The evaluation concludes that the measures proposed by France, Spain and Portugal to reduce bycatch of common dolphins in the Bay of Biscay are insufficient to prevent the many thousands of incidental deaths recorded every year.

Regarding measures for the Baltic Proper harbour porpoise brought forward by Baltic Member States, STECF highlights that these proposals have the potential to reduce incidental catches in marine protected areas but they leave out crucial measures recommended by scientists to minimise bycatch of this critically endangered species in the wider region.

We are now calling on the European Commission to reject these inadequate measures and require Member States to urgently revise their proposals and uphold their legal obligations to prevent these deaths.

STECF warned that the number of bycaught dolphins stranded on the French coast has doubled in January 2021 compared to January 2020. In the Bay of Biscay, between 1 December 2020 and 6 April 2021, around 750 dolphins were found stranded on the French Atlantic coast, which could imply that around 7500 died in the fishing nets of the Bay of Biscay this winter. If this keeps going, common dolphins could disappear in the Bay of Biscay within 40 years.

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