Surge in number of dolphin deaths sparks call for halt to Atlantic fishing

Xavier LEOTY / AFP

Biologists and animal rights activists have called for a temporary halt to fishing off the French Atlantic coast as hundreds of fatally injured dolphins wash up on the nation's beaches.

Faced with this winter's unusually high number of injured dolphins, the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) has called on French President;Emmanuel Macron to intervene.

"The time has come to do our utmost to save dolphins from mistreatment, even extinction," says Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, president of the LPO, in an open letter to the French leader.

"We call on you to suspend immediately and for several weeks the types of fishing which are capturing dolphins in the Bay of Biscay between France and Spain.

"This dramatic situation is even less acceptable given that it is avoidable," Bougrain-Dubourg added.

Huge additional number of deaths

The Pelagis ocean observatory has reported a surge in dolphin deaths on the Atlantic coast, with 127 common dolphins washed up in January alone -- up from 73 in the same month last year.

The rate of dolphin deaths usually increases later in the year, during the February-March coastal feeding season that brings the marine mammals closer to fishing vessels chasing hake and sea bass.

This year the increase in finds is "especially early", Pelagis says

Over the whole of 2022, 669 dolphins washed up on French shores, down from 1,299 in 2020.

Many fishing ships are already fitted with the devices in a "large-scale experiment" to test their effectiveness, the government said.

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