Dolphins are being killed in trawler fishing operations at almost the rate of one a week in Australia’s North West, a study has found.
A minimum of 500 bottlenose dolphins have been incidentally caught in the Pilbara Trawl Fishery in the last decade, according to a study published in the journal PLOS One.
The bycatch, or accidental catching, of small cetaceans in commercial fisheries is a global wildlife management problem.
The scientists used data from skippers’ logbooks and independent observers to assess common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) bycatch patterns between 2003 and 2009 in the Pilbara Trawl Fishery, Western Australia.
The study, Patterns of Dolphin Bycatch in a North-Western Australian Trawl Fishery, was conducted by researchers from Murdoch University and the North Carolina State University.
Murdoch University’s Cetacean Research Centre says recent skipper’s logbook data shows that dolphin bycatch rates have not declined since 2006 when bycatch reduction devices when were introduced across the fishery.
The study said top-opening escape hatches from which dolphins might escape to the surface may be a more effective means of further reducing dolphin bycatch.