“We have turned the ocean into a minefield for protected species” – Liberation

This article was published as part of the “Libé tout en BD” magazine, fully illustrated by cartoonists for the opening of the 50th Angoulême festival. to find all articles of this publication hereand on newsstands this Thursday, January 26.

to find Terror Graphique strips in Libe.

Hundreds of dolphins wash up on the Atlantic coast every year. But this winter “We have never recorded such a massacre” learn from Let it go Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, president of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), wrote to Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday “to save the dolphins”. “Since January 1, 127 dolphins have been found on the coast of France, compared to 73 at the same time last year.” The Pelagis observatory, which has been recording cetacean strandings on the Atlantic coast since 1970, is warning. “a new episode of common dolphin excess mortality”. Question: non-selective fishing nets that catch everything in their path. Lamya Essemlali, co-director of Sea Shepherd and president of its French branch, returns Let it go So that “genocide”.

Common dolphins, a protected species within the European Union, wash up by the hundreds on France’s Atlantic coast every year. What is the reason for this sad event?

Dolphins are caught by accident in large numbers by non-selective fishing gear. Often because they catch the fish that the boats are targeting. They are stuck in nets and cannot extricate themselves. These are mammals that need to breathe, they can stay under water for only ten minutes, even less if they are stressed. The nets remain under water for hours. Therefore, they cannot rise to the surface and drown. Unfortunately, dolphins often die when fishermen lift their nets.

The problem is that fishing gear is not selective and catches all kinds of protected species. Tens of thousands of kilometers of fishing nets with a depth of 15 meters have been installed… The ocean has become a minefield for protected creatures.

The responsibility of fishing gear for the capture and killing of hundreds of dolphins is no longer in doubt. However, several measures are taken to prevent this phenomenon. What is missing?

Cameras on board the boats we want to enforce make the phenomenon better visible: they assess which fishing gear is more involved in the catch. But what we want above all is spatio-temporal connectivity, which is to connect boats to sensitive fisheries that we know will catch dolphins. This is the only really effective measure.

The problem is that a whole section of the fishing industry is against it. However, there are European compensation funds to compensate fishermen who do not go to sea. Billions of euros are injected into this sector every year. What needs to be considered is the allocation of funding, which should be used as a priority to strengthen fisheries control, compensate fishermen and establish more selective fishing methods.

Another problem is that fishermen do not declare their catch, although it is mandatory and there is no sanction for the catch. The only goal is to better assess the situation.

So what are they afraid of?

You can imagine: if they announced all their catches, we would end up with a lot of dolphins killed by fishing. The situation would be vulnerable. Within the fisheries committees, four or five years ago, it was said that the excess mortality of dolphins was due to storms! If there were cameras on board and the fishermen gave all their statements, we would have a concrete understanding of the scale of the carnage. For this, concrete and mandatory measures should be taken.

There are also many disemboweled and disemboweled dolphin carcasses that are not just the work of fishing nets. Why do fishermen engage in this practice?

Disposing of bodies by sinking and reducing the number of captures. What is certain is that captive dolphins represent only 20% of the catch. Most of it sinks to the bottom of the water. Weather conditions play a huge role: westerly winds cause a lot of traffic jams, and easterly winds send bodies out to sea.

That’s right, we’re currently in a sequence of disembowelled corpses. There seems to be a greater desire than ever to camouflage shooting. However, disemboweling dolphins is very wrong and that’s why we complained last week. Simply failing to report a seizure is a crime punishable by a fine of 21,500 euros. We have already filed a non-declaration complaint, but this has never resulted in a prosecution. There is a context of complete impunity.

The European Commission has repeatedly pointed to France’s responsibility and asked to “prevent the accidental capture of common dolphins.” Bans and sanctions will fall soon, what is the government waiting for?

Christophe Bechu in December [le ministre de la Transition écologique, ndlr], told me he’s leaving himself again this winter to test the cameras, see what happens, and then consider spatiotemporal closures. The government only buys time at the expense of dolphins. Each winter we have unsustainable mortality rates for the species to survive. In 2020, we won our appeal to the administrative court for deficiencies in dolphin conservation measures. Thus, the following conclusion is reached: France does not rise to the challenge and continues to drag its feet.

The fishing industry is reluctant, the government doesn’t want to hear anything… Is the dolphin’s fate sealed?

Public opinion must take up this issue! I think one of the big problems is the huge lack of information at the general public level. We realize this during our exhibitions of dolphin carcasses in cities. Not many people know that we have dolphins in France! Even in La Rochelle, where dead dolphins are regularly found in the sea.

And at the end of the day, we should also eat less fish. Citizens are moved by captive dolphins, but must also be concerned about the effects of overfishing, which is directly related to the increasing demand for fish: it has doubled in fifty years! Fishermen respond only to the growing demand of the population. This will move the lines.

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