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Volume 412: debated on Friday 11 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the Government's policy is on implementing the EU Habitats Directive to protect dolphins in the English Channel; and if he will make a statement. [108169]

The EC Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC is implemented in territorial waters around the English coast by the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations SI 1994/2716. Under Article 12 of this Directive member states are obliged to prohibit all forms of deliberate capture or killing and deliberate disturbance of dolphins and all other cetaceans. This provision is implemented by regulation 39 of SI 1994/2716. My Department will shortly issue a consultation document extending this protection to those offshore waters over which the United Kingdom exercises sovereignty. My Department carries out monitoring of the bycatch of cetaceans by UK vessels in English Channel in line with the obligations of Article 12(1)(d) of the Habitats Directive.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many dolphin carcases have been washed up from the English Channel since the beginning of January 2003; how many carcases were recorded in the same time period in 2002; and if she will make a statement. [108193]

From 1 January to 31 March 2003, a total of 249 dolphins have been reported as stranded on the south coast (Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, West and East Sussex). These comprised 129 common dolphins and 120 unidentified dolphins. No dolphins have been reported as stranded from 1 to 9 April 2003.During the period from 1 January to 31 March 2002, in the same area 110 dolphin strandings were reported: 66 common dolphins and 44 unidentified dolphins.It should be noted that these figures include stranded dead cetaceans, live strandings, carcasses seen floating at sea, reported cetacean by-catch and cases of unconfirmed or suspected cetacean by-catch. The data were obtained under the Defra-funded Cetacean and Turtle Strandings Scheme, carried out by the Natural History Museum in partnership with the Institute of Zoology and Scottish Agricultural College.