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Trawlers to blame for rise in dolphin & whale deaths on Irish coasts; Experts warn foreign crews behind marine life strandings.

Byline: NICK BRAMHILL

SUPERTRAWLERS are being blamed for a spike in the number of dolphins that have washed up dead on the West coast.

Experts said in the first two months of this year there were 28 strandings - the second-highest number ever recorded.

Marine scientists in the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said most were found in Mayo, Sligo and Donegal, with evidence showing many of the dolphins got caught up in large fishing nets.

The highest-recorded total for common dolphins for the same two months was 2013, when 31 were recorded by experts at the IWDG.

In comparison, just two common dolphin strandings were reported in the first two months of 2010, while there were three strandings in the comparable period for 2009.

IWDG spokesman Mick O'Connell said: "Many of the dolphins found recently, particularly in Mayo, Sligo, and Donegal, show obvious signs of being caught in fishing nets. This trend is ongoing since 2011."

While there is no conclusive proof of what vessels are involved, the evidence points to the presence of large (100m) foreignregistered freezer trawlers.

Mr O'Connell added: "While small numbers of stranded dolphins showing signs of bycatch [marine species caught unintentionally] have been occasionally recorded from around the coast previously, we have never seen anything like the scale of the annual carnage on our northwest coast.

"It is important to remember the number of bycaught dolphins that actually get washed ashore and recorded as stranded may only be a small percentage of the actual number of dead animals.

"We believe it is time to have observers placed on these large vessels to monitor the species and number of bycaught animals with a view to introducing mitigation measures to reduce the impact on non-target species from a conservation and welfare point of view."

There is evidence that dolphin populations are in decline as a result of chemical and noise pollution, human disturbance, habitat loss and the depletion of prey.

news@irishmirror.ie

28 Number of dolphins found stranded this year already

31 Total number snagged for the whole of 2013

3 Dolphins were washed ashore in 2009

100m Size of trawler that could be behind the deaths

CAPTION(S):

MAJESTIC Dolphins are integral part of Ireland's marine life

RESCUE Volunteer helps a stricken dolphin in Co Donegal

tragic sight No way to help this snagged dolphin

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Mar 3, 2016
Words:390
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