Quantcast

1,100 Mutilated Dolphins Have Washed Up on French Beaches Since January

Animals

A record number of dolphins have washed up dead and mutilated on French beaches, and scientists don't know exactly why.

Activists say 1,100 dolphins have washed up on France's Atlantic coast since January, but the number could be as much as 10 times higher than that, as many likely sink instead of washing ashore. Researchers at the La Rochelle marine laboratory Observatoire Pelagis said they had seen "extreme levels of mutilation" on the dolphins that did wash up, The Guardian reported.


"There's never been a number this high," La Rochelle University National Center for Scientific Research member Willy Daubin told The Associated Press. "Already in three months, we have beaten last year's record, which was up from 2017 and even that was the highest in 40 years."

Daubin said 90 percent of the deaths could be blamed on industrial fishing generally, as dolphins are accidentally caught up in nets. However, it is not known what specifically is causing the number of deaths to rise so dramatically.

"What fishing machinery or equipment is behind all these deaths?" he asked.

There is speculation that trawlers fishing for sea bass may be to blame, according to The Guardian. The dolphins injure themselves trying to escape the nets, or fisherman injure them in the process of trying to free them. Activists told The Associated Press that fisherman will also cut off dolphins' body parts once they have been suffocated by the net in order not to damage the net.

President of Sea Shepherd France Lamya Essemlali also told The Associated Press that the number of dolphin deaths began to rise three years ago, coinciding with the lifting of a ban on aggressive hake fishing.

"The spotlight has been put on the trawlers that fish for sea bass ... which is a scandal. But they were not the only ones responsible," she told The Associated Press.

Essemali estimated that the real dolphin death toll was probably around 6,500 to 10,000 a year, according to The Guardian.

"Right now it's such an alarming rate they could drive the European dolphin population to extinction," she said.

French Ecology Minister Francois de Rugy traveled to La Rochelle last week to try and find a way to stem the killings, The Associated Press reported. His proposals include doing research into acoustic repellent devices that 26 two-vessel trawlers operating in the Bay of Biscay have installed. However, Sea Shepherd said the devices were not effective, since fisherman turn them off out of fear they will scare away valuable fish.


In a video shared last month, Sea Shepherd recorded a French fishing vessel with a dead dolphin in its net. The video showed that the fisherman did not attach acoustic repellents to the net until they realized that they were being filmed.

The activist organization also said that acoustic repellents were not a viable solution, since they would increase noise pollution that harms marine life.

"The government needs to take responsibility and act — especially [French President Emmanuel] Macron, who said he wanted to protect ecology," Essemlali told The Associated Press.

Macron has positioned himself as an environmental leader, launching a campaign to invite international climate scientists to France to "Make the Planet Great Again." However, his first Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot quit in August 2018 over what he felt was insufficient action on restricting pesticides and protecting biodiversity.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Emily Deanne

Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.

Read More Show Less
Kokia drynarioides, commonly known as Hawaiian tree cotton, is a critically endangered species of flowering plant that is endemic to the Big Island of Hawaii. David Eickhoff / Wikipedia

By Lorraine Chow

Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Frederick Bass / Getty Images

States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
A couple works in their organic garden. kupicoo / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristin Ohlson

From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A competitor in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships in Uummannaq, Greenland on April 9, 2001. Michael Steele / Allsport / Getty Images

Greenland is open for business, but it's not for sale, Greenland's foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters after hearing that President Donald Trump asked his advisers about the feasibility of buying the world's largest island.

Read More Show Less
AFP / Getty Images / S. Platt

Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.

Read More Show Less
Newly established oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.

It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."

Read More Show Less