Since January 2019, a shockingly high number of dolphins have washed up on France’s Atlantic coast, many with devastating injures.
Please read The Shortage Of Marine Wilderness In Europe
The cause of death
Even though the bodies show extreme levels of mutilation, the cause of the deaths is not confirmed. However, wounds suggest that fishing trawlers catching sea bass off the Atlantic coast may be responsible. Dolphins were caught in trawler nets used to catch fish like hake and sea bass, which the dolphins like to eat. Carcasses show that they sustained catastrophic injuries when attempting to escape. These fishing nets are not at all selective to fish, so they easily trap dolphins as well. Since they need to get to the surface to get air, they not only injure themselves but can also suffocate when being in the nets for too long.
Driving populations towards extinction
Of the 1,200 dolphins found along the coast of the Bay of Biscay, more than 90 percent were common dolphins, according to scientists at the marine research station Pelagis Observatory. However, since many bodies sink without any trace whatsoever, the likely number could even be 10 times higher. The number of dolphins dying in this way had been increasing over the past years. If this alarming rate continues, the European dolphin population could come close to extinction.
What is the solution?
A seemingly obvious, but harder to implement solution would be to reduce the number of large fishing vessels. Other solutions include equipping trawler boats with acoustic repellents to keep the dolphins away. This has been but to the test since the beginning of this year, unfortunately with visibly little effect. This is another example how careless exploitation of nature will have a serious impact on marine wildlife. Public demand for cheap fish also fuels this chain reaction.
True marine Wilderness is still rare in Europe. Even when it comes to marine protected areas, in many countries fishing is considered a traditional nature conservation management measure. This prevents majority of marine areas to be part the European Wilderness Network.
Warning: this video contains graphic content.