The Bay of Biscay, which lies north of Spain and west of France, has seen mass devastation of its marine wildlife due to the impact of bycatch.
According to Sea Shepherd, over 600 dead dolphins have washed up on French beaches in Vendée, Charente Maritime, and Gironde in the last few months due to being caught by fishing trawlers in the bay . These deaths are just a small sample size of the actual death count has it is believed that as many as 3000 dolphins have been killed this year as a result of trawlers with only a small sample of the dolphins making it to the shoreline.
These dolphins, which spend winter in the Bay of Biscay, are victims of trawlers, Danish Seiners, gillnetters, and French and foreign vessels engaged in industrial fishing.
British and French researchers say the number of dead dolphins washing up on their shores is at its highest level in more than 14 years as trawlers move at high speeds, catching large amounts of marine mammal bycatch in the nets.
The practice is so harmful that British boats were actually banned from pair trawling in UK territorial waters but that restricted was never extended to international waters. While this law was a positive step forward, with Britain’s departure from the EU, the future of whether the law will stay in place is unknown.
While it is obvious that trawling needs to be restricted, the most frustrating part is that technology available today actually could prevent the dolphins from being caught. When placed on nets, acoustic deterrent devices emit a randomized acoustic noise underwater that dolphins or porpoises can hear, and can be easily added to nets.
This technology essentially allows for marine mammals to “see” the net underwater and avoid it. Cornwall Wildlife Trust said a study of one particular device, the banana pinger, reduced the risk of accidental capture in the net by 86 percent.
After autopsies were conducted on the latest French batch, marine biologist Helen Peltier estimated that 80 percent of the dolphins showed evidence of being caught up in fishing trawls. It is believed the real number caught up in trawls may be as much as five times higher.
“We used a drift prediction model to find the likely cause of death at sea and to correct these stranding numbers by the probability of sinking, and in fact we noticed that 800 stranded animals represent 4,000 dead animals at sea,” Peltier, from the University of La Rochelle, told DW.