Beginning in January of 2006, it will be required that all fishing vessels over 12 meters in length are to be outfitted with acoustic pingers attached to their nets in what is considered an important move to protect dolphins and porpoises from death by entanglement.
This move has been confirmed in a letter from the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and has been widely welcomed by environmental campaigners.
The pingers emit an acoustic noise that drives dolphins and porpoises away from the nets, preventing them from becoming entangled and in the majority of instances, suffocating. The problem is particularly acute in popular diving areas such as south-west Britain, where reports of dolphin deaths from fishing nets are increasiningly implicated.
Numerous groups, including the British Divers Marine Life Rescue and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, have been working with divers and other ocean enthusiasts to monitor and report the number of dolphin and porpoise deaths along the British coastline.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has already begun introducing monitoring of cetacean bycatch on mid-water trawlers over 15 meters in length in the Channel – seen as a high risk area for dolphin deaths – beginning in January of 2005. These measures will allow the expansion into other fishing areas beginning in January 2006.
Fishing vessels under 15 meters will be subject to a separate program which is also aimed at reducing the numbers of dolphin deaths.