Pascal Xicluna /

In order to implement international commitments made by France regarding the avoidance of accidental capture of small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises) by fishing boats France put in place a national Working Group.

This working group has three primary objectives:

  • Improve knowledge: The Pelagis Observatory is currently leading a scientific study based on cetacean beaching incidents and activity data from French and foreign fisheries in order to better understand the interactions between fishing fleets and populations of small cetaceans in the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of western France. The results are shared with fishing professionals to help reduce accidental captures.
  • Improve monitoring of accidental captures by professionals. New reporting tools will progressively be put in place to allow fishing professionals to declare accidental captures of marine mammals. These declaration tools complement the survey carried out by scientific observers on board certain fishing vessels. Reporting all accidental captures became mandatory for the entire French fleet in January of this year.
  • Prevent accidental captures. The use of preventive tools proves essential for limiting accidental captures of small cetaceans. One of the possible preventive measures is the use of acoustic dissuasion systems : Pingers or acoustic repellants, that are watertight emitters of sonar pulses that repel cetaceans (primarily porpoises and dolphins) out of zones where they risk being taken by fishing gear. Experiments are currently in progress to test the usefulness of new models of pingers for netters and trawlers.

As part of its goal, the Working Group put in place last year two new measures concerning the French fleet. The first measure aims to improve information about accidental cetacean capture and its effects, through 1) Substantially increasing scientific observation on board vessels and 2) marking individual whales accidentally captured so that a precise relationship between accidental captures and beaching incidents can be established.

The second measure aims to directly prevent the captures, through equipping the entire fleet with the pingers mentioned above. Initial experiments indicate that the use of the pingers reduces captures by 65%.