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Study raises concern about methods used to stop dolphins being caught in nets

A dolphin trapped in a fishing net

Dolphins and porpoises continue to die in huge numbers in fishing gear but even some measures introduced to try to stop this problem have serious implications for the welfare of these creatures.

A new study published by Science Direct, that includes WDC expert input, is the first to review the welfare impacts of escape hatches in trawl fishing gear; and Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs, or pingers).

The escape hatches are designed to prevent dolphins entering the narrower (cod-end) portion of the net. Acoustic Deterrent Devices, or ‘pingers’, emit intermittent sounds that alerts whales, dolphins and porpoises to the presence of fishing gear.

But the study has found that despite measures like escape hatches in nets and the use of pingers being effective in reducing the numbers caught under some circumstances, these measures still cause many to suffer injury and have negative welfare impacts.

We need governments to include these welfare issues when they look at fisheries planning. This includes area closures or ‘move on’ requirements (fish in a different place when dolphins are encountered), alternative fishing gears such as hooks and lines, or modifications to fishing gear, such as sinking ground lines (ropes that are weighted so they sit on the seabed, instead of looping up into the water column) to prevent entanglements.

Retailers and consumers have a voice too, as proved to great effect when it comes to improving welfare for of farm animals, and public concern could help to reduce the  suffering of dolphins, porpoises and whales in fishing gear too.

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