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Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 19:34 GMT 20:34 UK
Bid to save dolphin colony
Bottlenose dolphin
Dolphins in the Moray Firth could be under threat
New proposals designed to save Scotland's only coastal group of wild dolphins are being launched.

The draft code of conduct is being circulated around businesses, environmental groups and members of the public with an interest in the Moray Firth.

The aim is to reverse a decline in the population of bottle-nosed dolphins while safeguarding industrial and commercial activities in and around the firth.

There are 130 dolphins in the colony
The move follows fresh warnings over the weekend that Scotland's only resident colony of bottle-nosed dolphins will die out unless drastic action is taken to preserve their habitat.

The fear was raised in a new report from the Moray Firth Partnership, which highlighted rising pollution and overfishing in the Moray Firth.

The 130 dolphins are the only such group resident around Europe's North Sea coasts.

But the population is declining and experts are not sure exactly why.

The new scheme will attempt to find answers and to work out how existing industries around the Moray Firth can be maintained in a dolphin-friendly way.

Wildlife research

The proposals envisage new controls to cut pollution from sewage, industrial waste and marine operations.

Chemical residues from farming, forestry and fish-farming will be monitored, and there will be a call for a crackdown on illegal salmon netting.

There will also be research into any disturbance caused to the dolphins by leisure and tourist craft - and even wildlife research vessels themselves.

The dolphins attract thousands of tourists each year, while bringing in almost 750,000 for the local economy.

The Moray Firth pod lives in colder waters than any others, as this is the most northerly colony on Earth.

Britain's only other resident dolphins live in the water of Cardigan Bay, off West Wales, although they are visitors to inshore waters round several parts of the British Isles.

Craig Anderson reports
"There are fears for the dolphins' long-term future"
See also:

24 Feb 00 | Scotland
Marine life protection plan
11 Jun 99 | UK
Dolphins in danger
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