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Dolphins: Conservation

Volume 461: debated on Monday 11 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department has taken to protect dolphins internationally. (140391)

[holding answer 5 June 2007]: The Department works with other countries, through the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) toward the prevention of significant disturbance to cetaceans.

The Department has implemented a comprehensive system of by-catch monitoring under the requirements of the EC Habitats Directive and Council Regulation 812/2004. In 2003, the UK was the first member state to publish a response strategy for the monitoring of small cetaceans by-catch. In December 2004, the UK banned pelagic pair trawling for bass by UK vessels within 12 miles off the south-west coast of England. The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) regularly reports the results of its research on by-catch monitoring which covers all relevant UK fishery sectors, including the bass pair trawl fishery to the Department and has recently presented us with their 2006 findings. This report will be submitted to the European Commission and published on DEFRA’s website in due course. The Commission evaluate all contributing member states’ schemes.

The Department also provides funding for the Institute of Zoology and Natural History Museum Cetacean (and Turtle) Strandings Scheme, which monitors and investigates porpoise and dolphin strandings around the UK. This long-running DEFRA-funded contract showed a slight increase in strandings around the UK coast in 2006 compared to 2005. The latest report is scheduled to be published soon and will be available on DEFRA’s website.

The latter two schemes have been extended until 2010.

EU and DEFRA-funded SMRU work continues on by-catch mitigation measures in the bass pair trawl fishery. The final results will be presented to the European Commission in the next two to three months.

The UK Government have also identified the potential benefits of acoustic devices such as pingers in reducing bycatch in fixed gear fisheries and argued successfully for these devices to be required in certain fisheries by EU legislation. Prior to enforcing the use of pingers under Council Regulation EC 8121 2004, the UK Government wants to ensure that those we recommend to be used are safe and cost effective for the industry and offer the maximum protection to porpoises.