Friday, September 16, 2011

High Dolphin Deaths in South Australia: Humane Society challenges fishery management

Another example of the problem with the indiscriminate nature of gill nets: ABC News reports that in South Australia, the Humane Society International is pitting itself against legally sanctioned shark fishing due to a recently high level of dolphin deaths. The commercial shark fishing operators use gill nets which are notorious for catching other marine life other than sharks. Seals, turtles, billfish, and dolphins have been known to get ensnared in gill nets and summarily discarded as bycatch.

Apparently there has been a high accumulation of baitfish in South Australian waters where the shark fishermen operate. This has attracted dolphins, thereby increasing the number accidentally caught and killed in the gill nets. Shark fishing industry officials say they are not to blame as they are operating within all legal regulations. Regardless, Humane Society officials believe action needs to be taken immediately to protect the dolphins.

"It's not only a conservation issue, potentially it's also an animal welfare issue," said Alexia Wellbelove from the Humane Society. "What we're asking AFMA, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, to do is put some measures in place to protect the dolphins. If those can't be put in place then the use of gill nets needs to be banned in that area until they can figure out what the problem is that's causing all these deaths, because it's totally unacceptable."

The Humane Society International is recommending that dolphin experts be brought in to assist the AFMA and the fishery industry in determining a solution to the problem, rather than, in essence, blame the entire situation on the dolphins.

"What we need to do is actually get some dolphin experts to give the industry some advice," Wellbelove said. "I don't believe the industry has the capability or the understanding of dolphins sufficiently to be able to give us that information with any certainty."

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