EU chief challenges France over plight of dolphins

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The Independent Online

The European Commission is to challenge the French authorities over steps it is taking to stop dolphins dying after being caught in nets strung between fishing trawlers.

The Commission said it believed it was important to take a European-wide approach to the problem after The Independent highlighted how dozens of dolphin carcasses had been washed up on British and French beaches.

Franz Fischler, the EU fisheries commissioner, is writing to the French because an exceptional number of carcasses were washed up on its Atlantic coast. More than 100 dead dolphins have also been washed up along the south coast of Britain this year.

Conservationists say the dolphins are being trapped in nets while they, and the trawlers, hunt sea bass off the coasts of Devon and Cornwall in winter fishing areas.

The European Commission said it would propose new measures to protect dolphins after consulting with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

Elliot Morley, Britain's Fisheries minister, welcomed the moves for widespread European action. He has ordered trials of a new type of net, designed to allow dolphins, porpoises and small whales to escape, due to start in Hull in March. If it fails, it could lead to a ban on "pair trawling" in British waters, where two boats string a net between them.

Mr Morley said yesterday he hoped the net would be successful. If not, Britain "will be pressing for other forms of action and we certainly do not rule out seasonal closures or restrictions in this fishery".