The World Wildlife Fund estimates that around least ten thousand dolphins and porpoises a day are caught up in gillnets used by commercial fishermen throughout the world’s oceans.
The vast majority of endangered dolphins and porpoises could be saved by simple methods to prevent “bycatch,” according to a new report released by the World Wildlife Fund.
Scientists took a positive approach to the problem by examining those areas where species could be brought back from the edge of extinction with a minimum expenditure in education and equipment.
“Bycatch” is a term used to describe marine animals that are unintentionally entangled in fishing gear that causes the animals to become trapped underwater and drowned. Bycatch victims are usually caught up in gilnets as these huge nets are reeled into a fishing trawler.
However, fishermen in less advanced areas of the world have also been known to find unwanted sea mammals in their nets.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that around least ten thousand dolphins and porpoises a day are caught up in gilnets used by commercial fishermen throughtout the world’s oceans. Karen Baragona heads the species conservation department for the World Wildlife Fund office in Washington, DC.
She notes that a modest investment and some small changes in regulations could save thousands of dolphins and porpoises a day from being killed by commercial fishermen.
The Fund’s report notes that at least 9 different species could be saved with cooperation between fishermen and national governments.
For example, the report notes that the Irrawaddy Dolphin off the coast of the Philippines could be saved by improvement of the crab pot catching efficiency and establishment of a “gilnet” free zone.
The Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin and Bottlenose Dolphin can be brought back to healthy populations by stricter management procedures to help control gilnet usage.
These dolphin species have become major tourist attractions off the coast of Zanzibar and East Africa. Baragona stresses that fishermen don’t like bycatch as it can be destructive to their livelihood.
The report is based on the findings of a working group of the world’s leading dolphin and porpoise scientists. They were asked to rank areas where action on gilnetting could reverse the decline in the dolphin and porpoise population.