Record 1,100 dolphins wash up on French shores this year

Activists say a common practice is for fishermen to cut body parts off the suffocated dolphins

The dolphins’ bodies were horribly mutilated, the fins cut off.

But what shocked French marine researchers wasn’t just the brutality of the deaths of these highly intelligent mammals, but also the numbers involved — a record 1,100 have washed up on France’s Atlantic coast since January.

The mass deaths, widely blamed on aggressive industrial fishing, have alarmed animal welfare groups and prompted France’s ecology minister to launch a national plan to protect them.

“There’s never been a number this high,” said Willy Daubin, a member of La Rochelle University’s National Center for Scientific Research. “Already in three months, we have beaten last year’s record, which was up from 2017 and even that was the highest in 40 years.”

Though Daubin said 90 per cent of the fatalities resulted from accidental capture in industrial nets, the reason behind the spike this year is a mystery.

“What fishing machinery or equipment is behind all these deaths?” he asked.

Autopsies carried out on the dolphins this year by La Rochelle University’s National Center for Scientific Research show extreme levels of mutilation.

Activists say a common practice is for fishermen to cut body parts off the suffocated dolphins after they are pulled up on the nets, to save the net itself.

French Ecology Minister Francois de Rugy rushed last Friday to La Rochelle in an attempt to lower the number dying as a result of human action. He’s under pressure not least because of French President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-ecology stance and oft-quoted slogan to “Make the Planet Great Again.”

Rugy has come up with some plans, including bolstering research into existing acoustic repellent devices in place in some 26 two-vessel trawlers off the Bay of Biscay, an industrial fishing hub in the Atlantic Ocean. When activated, the devices send unpleasant signals to nearby dolphins that cause them to swim away.

But animal rights group Sea Shepherd said they do not go far enough, and has already decried such measures as “useless.”

It claims many of the trawlers they watch in the region don’t activate the repellent devices owing to fears they will scare off valuable fish as well, and operators only turn them on if they are checked by an “onboard observer.”

It also said that increasing the number of devices is no long-term solution for the underwater mammals as the move would make the ocean an uninhabitable drum of noise pollution.

“The government needs to take responsibility and act — especially Macron, who said he wanted to protect ecology,” Lamya Essemlali, President of Sea Shepherd France, told The Associated Press.

She pointed to scientists who predict the current rates of fishing will likely drive the dolphin population to extinction.

“The spotlight has been put on the trawlers that fish for sea bass …, which is a scandal. But they were not the only ones responsible.”

She suggested that aggressive hake fishing, which was given the green light three years ago after long ban, was a major factor. The spike in dolphin deaths also began three years ago.

Sea Shepherd explained the ecological crisis as stemming from unprecedented demand for low-cost fish.

“Right now, the sea bass that is being caught by the trawlers that kill dolphins, you can find on the French market for eight euros-per-kilo ($4-per-pound),” she said.

Global seafood consumption has more than doubled in the past 50 years, according to European Commission, a rate that rights groups have branded unsustainable.

Thomas Adamson, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Knights of Columbus step up for Shuswap community groups

Organizations from Shuswap, Thompson regions receive $15,000

Silverbacks forward receives BCHL Community Hero Award

Award presentation for Coalson Wolford to take place Sunday, Feb. 23

Deaths on popular Shuswap trail ruled accidental

Trail to remain closed until recommended works completed

Shuswap blockade temporarily lifted following negotiation with CP Rail

Onus placed on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to respond

A piece of Shuswap paradise could be yours for just $5.5 million

Waterfront listing in Blind Bay appears to have reached the pinnacle of pricing in region

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Gas drops below a dollar per litre in Penticton

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Pawsative Pups: You have a new puppy, now what?

Lisa Davies is a new columnist for Black Press who writes about dog training

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

Sewer service planned for South Okanagan community of Kaleden

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen plans to extend Okanagan Falls system into Kaleden

‘A horror show:’ Ex-employee shares experience at problematic Chilliwack seniors’ home

Workers are paid below industry standard at all Retirement Concepts facilities

Forest industry protests northern B.C. caribou protection deal

B.C. Mining Association supports federal-Indigenous plan

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Most Read