Bottlenose Dolphin

Credits: © Devon Wildlife Trust

This dolphin was killed by entanglement with fishing gear off the coast of Devon, South West England. Entanglement in fishing gear is the number one cause of death in stranded dolphins.

The South West of England is one of the UK's best locations for observing whales, dolphins and porpoises (known collectively as cetaceans). A report in May 2007 found a decline in sightings for some species - in particular the bottlenose dolphin - as well as an increase in the number of dead dolphins washed up on beaches. The report by Marine Connection and The Wildlife Trusts examines 14 years of cetacean records from the South West of England and summarises what needs to be done to ensure a safe and healthy future for these animals off our coast. The report highlights the many species of whale, dolphin and porpoise which are regularly observed off the coasts of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Some of the best places to see dolphins include Torbay, Plymouth, Falmouth, Mount's Bay, Land's End, Cape Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, with the best time of year to see dolphins being between June and August.

The report shows that, overall, more cetaceans are reported now than in 1990; however, rather than indicating an increase in numbers, this may simply be because more people know how important it is to report their sightings. Entanglement in fishing gear is the number one cause of death in stranded dolphins. The report recommends better fisheries management and the deployment of 'pingers' on bottom-set gill and tangle-nets. Pingers are cylindrical or banana shaped devices, 20cm or less in length, attached to fishing nets at regular spacings of 100 to 200m, which emit a 'ping' approximately every four seconds in an attempt to alert the porpoise or marine mammal to the presence of the nets.

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