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Record number of dolphin strandings reported along France’s Atlantic coast

France’s Atlantic coast has been the site of an unprecedented number of dolphin strandings this winter, with over 910 dolphins washing up since the start of the season. The majority of the marine mammals have shown injuries consistent with entanglement in fishing nets, other fishing equipment, or boat engines.

According to a report by the Pelagis oceanographic observatory, the months of January and February were marked by calm weather conditions that resulted in low reports of stranded dolphins. However, this changed in mid-February, with the shift in winds resulting in the increased reporting of strandings. Between February 16 and 25, 245 carcasses of small cetaceans were identified on the Atlantic coast.

The situation has become worse over the past week, with more than 400 dolphins found stranded along the coast, marking an unprecedented number. NGOs and scientists have called for a temporary halt of fishing during these months to protect dolphins, but the government has opted for solutions that mitigate the impact of industrial fishing on dolphins, such as onboard cameras or repellents to keep them away.

In February, the commissioner of the State Council, France’s highest jurisdiction in government matters, came out in favor of a temporary ban on certain types of fishing that are responsible for many of the dolphin deaths. A formal decision by the Council is expected soon, after several environmental protection associations brought a legal complaint against the government.

The issue of dolphin strandings is not new to France, as between 2017 and 2020, an average of 850 dolphins were washed up during the winter months. However, the current number is unprecedented, and urgent action is required to address the issue and prevent further harm to these marine mammals.

References:

1 400 cetaceans stranded on our shores this winter (January-February 2022) – Pelagis – February 2023

2 France reports 910 dolphins washed up on Atlantic coast – AFP – March 17, 2023

Featured image credit: PELAGIS

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