Written by Rachael Prokop, online marketing and social media associate at Oceana
Large fishing nets are like invisible walls in the ocean. They’ll catch anything big enough to get its fins tangled in the lines. Often, that means dolphins.
Accidentally-caught animals are called “bycatch” by the industry, and it’s a very common phenomenon. Hundreds of dolphins are caught every year off US shores, and many drown before they are rescued. A dolphin can hold its breath for a long time by human standards — about 15 minutes — but nets may remain in the water for much longer than that.
And dolphins travel in pods, so when one gets caught, its family members might follow suit. Many times mothers and calves find themselves trapped together, unable to rise for air. Dolphins are intelligent and emotional — there’s even evidence that they grieve for lost family members. Drowning in a net is a tragic end for such a smart, social animal.
There are regulations in place to minimize these deaths, but it’s not enough. No one knows for sure how many dolphins are caught and killed every year, and without that baseline itís hard to set limits. We here at Oceana are working to ensure that fishery managers minimize the deaths of dolphins and other marine mammals, count the dolphins they do catch and stay within the set limits.
Photo from minds-eye via flickr