France is to ban nearly all commercial fishing off the country's Atlantic coast from 22nd January until 20th February in an attempt to save dolphins in the area.
Experts estimate that up to 9,000 dolphins die in the Bay of Biscay region each year as a result of accidental capture in fishing nets and gear (known as bycatch).
The French government has said it will compensate fishers, who have been critical of the idea of a ban ever since courts recently ruled in favour of it following pressure from organisations including WDC.
We have been campaigning for more action to be taken to reduce the harm caused to whales, dolphins and porpoises from entanglement in nets, including in this area. Together with environmental groups we have recently been urging both the French and Spanish governments to urgently adopt adequate measures to prevent these unnecessary deaths every winter, something they are legally required to do under EU environmental law. It has taken a long time to see positive results and, even though the ban is shorter than hoped, it represents real step in the right direction. Nearly all fishing from Finisterre in Brittany to the Spanish border will cease during the ban period in a bid to boost dolphin recovery, a move that will affect over 400 French vessels.
The UK government also needs to take action on this issue. It is estimated that around 1,000 porpoises, hundreds of dolphins and tens of whales suffer and die in UK fishing gear in waters around the coast annually.
Like us, whales and dolphins breathe air, so when they get tangled up in a net, rope or fishing line it can be a race against time to reach the surface or to escape. In their desperation to escape and avoid suffocation, or in getting tangled in gear, some tear muscles, break teeth, and sheer off fins. The more they struggle, the more entangled they can become.