Europe Must Act Over Dolphin Deaths

Call for ban on pair trawling as numbers of washed up dolphins rise

Brussels, 9th July 2007 - The European Union can and must act to ban bass pair trawling, one of the main causes of dolphin, whale and porpoise deaths across the European Union, Sir Robert Atkins MEP & Conservative Deputy Leader in the European Parliament’s said today.

Conservatives joined Marine Connection and The Wildlife Trusts to present a report warning of a decline in sightings of some species - particularly the bottlenose dolphin as well as an increase in the number of dead dolphins washed up on our beaches. Lissa Goodwin (Fisheries & Policy Officer, Marine Connection) and Lisa Browning (Marine Development Manager, The Wildlife Trusts) will raise concerns that many European fishing fleets are flouting an EU requirement for vessels over 12 metres in length, using bottom-set gill and tangling nets, to use pingers - which alert marine mammals to the presence of the net.

The continued use of bass pair trawling - where a large net is attached to two boats and trawled through the water - is believed to cause thousands of deaths per year and has been unilaterally banned by the British government within territorial waters of the South Western approaches to the UK.

Marine Connection and The Wildlife Trusts will present a 371,000 signature petition to the Commissioner in support of immediate action.

Sir Robert said: “Bass pair trawling is responsible for thousands of needless dolphin and whale deaths every year and must be banned. The UK government has been able to place a ban on pair trawling in her territorial waters, but it needs to be effective at a European level.

“The European Commission has said insufficient evidence exists to prove bass pair trawling poses a threat to dolphin sustainability, but this is an animal welfare issue. When an unacceptable number of intelligent mammals are being needlessly put to a miserable death, surely it is time to act.

“The European Union can ban bass pair trawling, but it has been held back by a lack of will from the European Commission. Our message to the Commission will be: You have the power, now it is time to use it.”

Lissa Goodwin of Marine Connection added: “We are very pleased that our concerns are being taken seriously in Europe and we are grateful to have the opportunity to discuss our findings with the Fisheries Commissioner.

“It is vital that we increase the understanding of the problems dolphins face so that we can prevent further cetaceans dying as a result of fishing practices. We hope to discuss with Commissioner Joe Borg the wider need for both bycatch mitigation and fishery management measures to address the problem.”

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