A new report blames 'pair trawling' on declining dolphin numbers

Dolphins are becoming an increasingly rare sight off the south-west coast of England, and there are fears certain species may stop visiting the area altogether, a new report says.

The study by Marine Connection and the Wildlife Trusts says the bottenose dolphin is in particular danger, sightings of which have been declining over the last 15 years while strandings have increased.

The practice of ‘pair trawling’, where a net is strung between two boats, has been blamed for the declining numbers. This kind off fishing was banned for British trawlers within 12 miles of the British coast in 2005, but despite representations to the European Commission, the ban still only applies to British vessels.

Lissa Goodwin from Maine Connection said: “Entanglement in fishing gear is the number one cause of death in stranded dolphins, particularly common dolphins and harbour porpoises. If we want to reduce human impacts on dolphins and protect the region’s dolphins then we need to take urgent action.”

Campaigners are now calling for the banning of ‘pair trawling’ across the EU, as well as the compulsory fitting of devices on fishing gear that repels dolphins.