Following a statement regarding dolphin bycatch issued by Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries on 25th February (see https://blueplanetsociety.org/2020/02/eu-takes-action-on-dolphin-bycatch/) we have now received a further update addressed to 268,000+ people who have signed the Blue Planet Society petition ‘Stop the mass slaughter of dolphins by the fishing industry in EU waters‘.
Commissioner Sinkevičius has followed the issue of bycatch of dolphins very closely and has issued a statement on 25th February. It is a matter of serious concern to the European Commission because these animals are strictly protected by the EU Habitats Directive.
According to statistics collected in France, unusually high numbers of short-beaked common dolphins have been found stranded on the shores of the Bay of Biscay in the winters of 2018/19 and 2019/2020. Most of these are marked by fishing gear and are presumed to have been killed in fishing gear. Unfortunately, the exact magnitude of this problem is not fully known. It is therefore important to improve the monitoring of bycatch of sensitive species such as dolphins and to take appropriate preventive measures to avoid bycatch as required by EU environmental and fisheries legislation.
The European Commission has taken contact with the relevant Member States, and has asked them to work urgently on measures to address the problem. We have also made a special request to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea for scientific advice on measures to reduce or eliminate these accidental catches. That advice is expected to be delivered on 25th May and should be the basis for the relevant Member States to find a solution, which can be put in place under the EU law. Failing this, the European Commission will consider whether it is appropriate to implement Commission measures to protect the dolphin population.
The Commission is determined to find solutions to prevent bycatch of dolphins and other protected species prior to the next winter fishing season in the Bay of Biscay. He thanks you for your interest in the conservation and protection of the marine environment.
Veronika VEITS Acting Director