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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 12:23 GMT
Trawlers blamed for 'beach carnage'
Body on Devon beach
Most of the mammals washed up are common dolphins
More than 50 dolphins and other sea mammals have been washed ashore on beaches between Cornwall and Hampshire in January.

Nearly all are thought to have been illegally killed in giant trawler nets.

The Wildlife Trusts group says the actual figure of sea mammals killed in the approaches to the English Channel this winter is likely to be 2,000, with only a fraction washing ashore.

Most have been found in Devon and Cornwall, but some have washed up at Kimmeridge, Dorset, near Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight.

Body on Devon beach
The bodies are sent for post-mortems
Peter Tinsley of Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve said: "They've been caught in nets and drowned in the nets, then they'll have been thrown back overboard.

"They float around in the sea and because of the weather they end up on the beaches."

Experts from the Institute of Zoology were meeting at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth on Tuesday to investigate other possible causes of the dolphin deaths, including pollution and food poisoning.

Many of the bodies found have been sent to Plymouth for post mortem tests.

Devon campaigner Lindy Hingley, of Brixham Seawatch, said: "This is not a new problem.

"I have been seeing this carnage on our beaches for 12 years and we are not dealing with it.

"I would like to see a ban on the very large boats in these waters.

Giant nets

"We are looking at thousands of dolphins suffering terrible deaths in these huge trawls."

Mrs Hingley, a trawler owner who received the MBE for her conservation work, has told BBC News Online the issue of dolphin "by-catch" must be addressed by the European Union.

Lindy Hingley
Lindy Hingley says laws are not enforced
It is illegal to fish where protected mammals are likely to be swimming, but there is no European watchdog to prevent it happening or take action.

In the past, dolphins have been found with ropes round their tails, apparently tied on by trawlermen when dumping them at sea.

Others have their internal organs removed to make them sink, to prevent them being washed ashore.

The number of dead dolphins being washed ashore on the beaches of Devon and Cornwall has risen every year since 1990.

The rise has been linked to the use of giant nets strung between trawlers - mostly foreign boats.

Most of the mammals washed up are common dolphins.

It is thought they drown in nets while feeding on bass and mackerel.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, based in Bath, has said that Europe's common fisheries policy fails to protect sea mammals, because it leaves individual nations to control their own crews and waters.

It says there is no effective monitoring of by-catch aboard the growing number of pair-trawlers that head for the English Channel.

The BBC's Jane O'Brien
"They could be a tiny percentage of the total number dying at sea"
See also:

05 Jan 02 | England
Rare whale beaches in Devon
06 Oct 01 | England
Dolphins face death in nets
05 Oct 01 | England
Wildlife watchdogs join forces
18 Feb 00 | Europe
Nets blamed for dolphin disaster
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