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Action needed to protect dolphins and porpoises from bycatch in Europe - Newcastle University

Marine scientists are calling on the EU to adopt a comprehensive plan to protect dolphins and porpoises from fisheries bycatch in European waters.

Bycaught porpoise. Photo courtesy of Rod Penrose, Marine Environmental Monitoring.
Bycaught porpoise. Photo courtesy of Rod Penrose, Marine Environmental Monitoring.

A team of conservation experts, including Newcastle University’s Professor Per Berggren, highlight limitations in EU’s efforts to address and mitigate bycatch. The scientists argue this infective response is a result of scattered and complicated management responsibility for the conservation of dolphins and porpoises in Europe, and from a lack of quantitative conservation objectives, including biological reference points that will guide management action to ensure that bycatch does not exceed sustainable levels.

To help address the bycatch issue, which is the primary global threat to dolphins and porpoises, the researchers put forward a framework to reduce bycatch levels.

Publishing their recommendations in the journal Fish and Fisheries, the scientists outline a two-step approach that involves establishing a quantitative management objective for each population and implementing monitoring programmes. To ensure an accurate estimation of bycatch levels, the experts recommend using electronic monitoring systems that allow a more comprehensive and representative sampling of the fleets.

The scientists also recommend regular formal assessments of small cetacean populations, including generation of estimates of abundance and bycatch mortality. If total bycatch has been estimated to exceed the calculated biological reference point, then a mitigation strategy needs to be put in place while monitoring is continued until levels are below the reference points.

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