Industrial fishing has been blamed for the death of record numbers of dolphins, washing up on beaches in France so far this year – often in a mutilated state. Deaths in the first 3 months of 2019 are higher than deaths recorded for the whole of 2018.
The mass deaths have alarmed animal welfare groups and prompted French ecology minister Francois De Rugy to launch a national plan. Activists say fishermen often cut body parts off the suffocated dolphins after they are pulled up in their nets, in a bid to save their equipment.
The ecology minister has pledged to bolster research into existing repellent devices in use 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 and hopefully avoid coming to harm.
Animal rights group Sea Shepherd has said his measures do not go far enough, claiming that many fishermen are reluctant to use the repellent devices in case they scare off valuable fish as well. It also said increasing the number of repellent devices is not a long-term solution, as it would make the oceans an uninhabitable drum of noise pollution for all mammals and fish.