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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 12:33 GMT
Dolphins plan dismissed
Dead dolphin
Hundreds of dead dolphins have been found this year
New measures to help prevent dolphin deaths caused by fishing have been published by the government.

Key recommendations by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) include a legal requirement for UK vessels to use acoustic deterrents.

However, the RSPCA said dead dolphins and porpoises would still wash up on shores even if the new proposals were imposed immediately, and called for all EU fishing vessels to be involved.

Since January, nearly 200 dolphins and porpoises have been found dead around the coast in Devon and Cornwall.

On Wednesday night, two more dolphins were found dead on shore at Talland Bay, near Looe, in Cornwall.

Better monitoring

The problem is linked mainly to bass fishing and the huge nets used by trawlers to bring in the catch.

But dolphins can be caught up in any nets, then panic and drown as a result.

We have got to take a lead on this
Linda Hingley, Brixham Seawatch
Key recommendations in Defra's report include a legal requirement for vessels to use "pingers", a device which will emit a noise under water to warn dolphins off.

According to Defra, such acoustic deterrents have been shown in tests to have 92% effectiveness in reducing any by-catch.

Other measures being put forward include better monitoring of catches.

The RSPCA said the plans were a positive step, but added that the carcass toll would only drop significantly when other European boats followed.

A spokeswoman said: "This proposal is an important development, but it now needs to be tightened and translated into action."

Linda Hingley, of Brixham Seawatch, which monitors dolphin deaths, called for a temporary ban on bass fishing.

She said: "It would be a very powerful lever to get it banned across the EU.

"We have got to take a lead on this."

Fisheries Minister Eliot Morley admitted that the problem could not be solved by the UK alone.

He would continue to press fisheries ministers from other EU states and with the European Commission.

He said: "The by-catch problem poses a major threat to the conservation of dolphins and other cetaceans.

"Co-operation at EU level is vital if there is to be real progress."

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