World

Dead Dolphins Washing up on France’s Beaches in Record Numbers

Mutilated dolphins are washing up France's Atlantic coast in record numbers. Over 1,100 have been reported since January, already breaking 2018's record. What's the cause, and what can we do about it?
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

A record number of 1,100 mutilated dolphins have been showing up on France’s Atlantic coast since January. Willy Daubin, a member of La Rochelle University’s National Center for Scientific Research, has said that industrial fishing nets are the reason for 90 percent of the deaths. This number has already beaten 2018’s record in just three months. It’s prompted France’s ecology minister to launch a national plan to protect them.

Activist are blaming fishing trawlers that catch sea bass off the Atlantic coast. Trawling is a method of fishing where a large net is pulled through the water. Dolphins will panic and get caught in these nets where they’ll eventually suffocate because, like humans, they breath air. What’s sad is that these fishermen will cut off fins and body parts after reeling a net in to save the net, and that’s why these dolphins show up mutilated on a beach. It’s horrible.

A countermeasure is to fit fishing nets with acoustic alerting devices that scare dolphins away. They do work, but most fisheries don’t use them because it could scare other fish away. It’s a minor fix, or rather masking, to a problem that needs more attention and more regulation. Public demand for cheap sea bass is also making it worse.

You will be surprised to know dolphins have a brain to body ratio second to humans. They demonstrate acts of empathy, altruism, and even mourn their dead. They can also recognize themselves in a mirror and indicate self awareness. They’re one of the smartest animals on Earth, and need much more attention to this accelerating and devastating problem.

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