European Parliament passes up opportunity to improve dolphin and porpoise protection

The whole of the European Parliament (751 MEPs) voted yesterday on new conservation measures for fisheries in EU waters. This included rules covering the accidental entanglement (or ‘bycatch’) of dolphins and porpoises. I’d like to say a massive ‘thank you’ if you took part in our action last week and emailed your MEPs to ask them to vote for better protection.

So, what happened? Well, some things were improved for dolphins and porpoises, but these improvements are marginal compared with what could have been achieved. In summary, it was a great big missed opportunity.

Thousands of dolphins, porpoises and whales die in fishing gear in EU seas every year. Since 2004, most EU Member States have been required to undertake some monitoring and put in place some measures for reducing bycatch in some fishing activities.

Porpoise in fishing net
Porpoise protection from bycatch is inadequate

In November 2017, WDC released a study that showed clearly that, based on independent scientific evidence, the current bycatch regulation is being flouted by most Member States, and is too weak to understand or reduce this serious problem. You can read about the different levels of compliance with the existing regulation in this WDC report.

Whilst these existing measures protect some dolphins and porpoises in some static nets used by the larger boats of the fishing fleet (>12 metres), the measures are not fit-for-purpose and do not currently cover all regions where bycatch is a problem (including the Mediterranean and Black Sea, for example, where there are huge bycatch issues).

Yesterday’s vote followed previous votes in November last year on a draft regulation by both the Environment (ENVI) Committee and the Fisheries (PECH) Committee. It was a massive opportunity to strengthen these inadequate measures and get much better protection for dolphins and porpoises. The European Parliament had the chance to reduce the numbers of individuals suffering a horrific death in fishing gear, but it let it go.

Unfortunately, not all the measures that we hoped for, including some important ones to improve monitoring and mitigation on a wider range of fishing vessel types (as the science has repeatedly shown are required), were put forward as amendments to be voted on. And there were some measures that we wish had not been put forward – like a proposal to remove existing bycatch measures in the Baltic Sea and in South Western Waters, off Spain and Portugal – where porpoise numbers are already low and declining, and the loss of existing measures would surely have seen these populations perish. Luckily, this amendment was not accepted.

There was further good news as bycatch measures were expanded from dolphins, porpoises and whales to cover all marine mammals, including seals, but requests to include consideration of the suffering caused by entanglement were rejected.

A young Common dolphin, Cromarty Firth, Scotland
A young Common dolphin, Cromarty Firth, Scotland

So, there were a few positive outcomes and we are glad of those, but on the whole, this was a massive lost opportunity. The European Parliament had the chance to strengthen protection measures, but they threw it away. We are bitterly disappointed that MEPs did not follow scientific advice and take this chance to strengthen the legislation and save dolphins’ and porpoises’ lives.

We will continue to work with our European colleagues to do all we can to improve bycatch measures throughout European waters and stop dolphins and porpoises dying. We will need your support again along the way, so please make sure you are signed up to receive our e-newsletter or you follow us on Facebook or Twitter so we can let you know when we need you to add voice to ours.

If you’d like to make a donation to help us continue this battle, we’d be very grateful.


Cruel fishing practices should be banned

Can you list the MEPs that rejected theses measures?

Some MEPS only worry about their pay and their pensions and not there for their own country. The most recent EU Parliament votes prove how Labour MEPS voted against UK fishing rights.

Definitely. They should be banned.

So so cruel. The people failing to protect these beautiful animals should be treated the same way, they may have a totally different opinion then.

Oh so true - 'eye for an eye..........'
i dont know how those meps who rejected the proposal sleep at night!

Could you post some details of on how the MEP's voted?

Please think long and hard about about the need to further strengthen these regulations to stop so many unnesessary bycatches.

I wrote to the following Shrewsbury & Atcham MEPs on the 10th Jan.
Dan Dalton, James Carver, Bill Etheridge, Anthea McIntyre, Jill Seymour & Neena Gill from whom I had an auto response, but nothing more.
None of the others replied in any shape or form.

Perhaps if the MEP's were treated in the same dreadful way they might think more about it. It's barbaric and should be stopped now.

What’s the matter with the human race. What happens when all these beautiful creatures cease to exist thanks to man. Wake up Europe.


You haven't written about WHY improvements weren't made where needed...

Why did this happen, what was there to lose keeping cetaceans and albatross safe? How disgraceful when presented with the evidence, they were let down, when their environment could have been improved, and benefitted us all. Plastic pollution!!

Please list the MEPs as I would like to contact them, this decision is unacceptable.

It's not straightforward unfortunately. You can find voting records on These official records are translated into searchable tables that you can check to see who voted for and against, but also who rebelled against the political group or national position. The file that was voted upon is here:

The 'Fat Cat' MEP's think only of themselves, they do not seem to be able to empathise with the magnificent creatures that are being destroyed because we (those in power) do not do anything to save them. This is shameful and I hope that the those who have a conscience feel supremely guilty about killing these beautiful, gentle creatures, Shame on you all!!

I wrote to all the West Mids MEPs. Only Sion Simon acknowledged. Came back later to say voted in favour as thought it simplified existing regulations. However on the plus side voted for an amendment that banned electric fishing.

Boycott fish, go vegetarian. Save fish, save land and marine mammals.

Once again animals are being let down by Man. The MEPs who didn’t act to save these creatures are as guilty as the ships & their netting are. What does it take to wake both these MEPs & citizens of Europe to the carnage that is happening??? Is this another case of money before the lives of those who share the planet with us?? I’d like to see these same MEPs caught in the nets then they’d change their tune. Disgraceful!!

We need to do so much more than what we are currently doing to protect these amazing, beautiful creatures from the awful harm caused by fishing nets and equipment. The ocean is their home, not ours, and we have a duty to keep them safe in that home, as we expect to be safe in our homes. There needs to be tougher, stricter laws about the usage of fishing nets etc. and more people need educating about how to use them responsibly.

The answer is simple and easy. Don’t eat fish! Boycott! Boycott! Boycott! Hit the bastards where it hurts! Their pocketbooks!

I emailed all my MEP's no reply at all from conservative members,not surprised, you only have to look at their voting record on environmental matters to see what the priorities are.

Sounds par for the course for the fractured EU.

I also emailed all of my MEP's but only one acknowledged or responded. Catherine Bearder MEP took the time to reply to my email after the vote on fishing rules to explain how the European Parliament - 'have managed to miss an opportunity to improve sustainability, for example the targets for reducing by-catches of undersized fish are not mandatory – I do not think that is good enough'. She is a lady who is unafraid to voice her views. It fact it is a great shame that Ms Bearded was not listened to, perhaps other MEPs on a different wave length. I just find it hard to believe that the MEP's who voted for this disgrace of a rule, have no idea how these Marine creatures suffer when caught up in fishing gear? If it were humans suffering the results would have been different! Maybe they just don't care. Shame on them all.

More should be done to protect Wales and Dolphins.

This is disgraceful. How many more animals are the human race going to wipe off the planet?

Yet again the EU shows complete disregard for animals and the environment. Fishing practices and levels are completely unsustainable at present, and no long-term plan to safeguard both fish stocks, other marine animals or future livelihoods is in place. MEPs are not worth their inflated salaries and bonuses when they cannot see the bigger picture.

Do more..
It is urgent