Cause of deaths of porpoise and seals washed up at Ardmore, Co Waterford

13th Jan 2017

IWDG learnt about a number of seals and a cetacean washed up at Ardmore Co Waterford on Monday. We sent down a local member of our Strandings Network, Andrew Malcolm, who identified it as a harbour porpoise and suggested the cause of death was fisheries interactions. However, it has been reported that pair trawling was to blame for these recent strandings. 

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/pair-trawling-blamed-for-death-of-sea-mammals-438738.html

The IWDG were quoted (wrongly named the Irish Whale and Dolphin Society !) as "regularly highlighted the bycatch risks of fishing techniques such as pair trawling, which lead to indiscriminate deaths of non-targeted species", which is very true but we would like to clarify that IWDG do not consider pair trawling responsible for these deaths. The evidence suggests that some of the seals were bycaught in gillnets and it's likely the others were of a similar fate. Bottom-set gillnets are legal and known to capture porpoise, whereas pair trawling is more likely to capture dolphins. 

Bycatch and fisheries interactions are a very important conservation issue for marine mammals but it is essential to make sure the fishery responsible is correctly identified to assist in management actions. While zero bycatch is not achievable, we should seek to eliminate as much bycatch as possible. Where bycatch levels are large enough to impact on populations, there are strong legal frameworks in place to reduce or mitigate against them. Therefore, the IWDG work with the fishing community to ensure fishing is a sustainable activity with minimum impacts on non-target species. 

Photo: ©Helen Russell