Less talk, more action needed from UK Government to end bycatch

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After announcing that 2021 would be a ‘Super Year’ for ocean protection, the UK Government has made few real advances in safeguarding its seas or marine wildlife.

In particular, the World Cetacean Alliance is disappointed by the Government’s lack of action on the deadly issue of bycatch.

The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme recently presented its findings from the last 30 years, confirming that bycatch is the number one human-related cause of death for cetaceans in the UK, posing a particular threat to dolphins.

Unfortunately, the Government is yet to introduce any robust measures to address this problem. The UK Cetacean Bycatch Plan of Action (now subsumed into the Bycatch Mitigation Initiative) was originally intended for publication in early 2021, but has now been delayed by a full year. Hundreds of dolphins will have lost their lives as bycatch in this intervening time – deaths which could, and should, have been prevented.

A recent report by Wildlife and Countryside Link concluded that the Government has shown “No meaningful progress” on bycatch prevention measures, while statements from UK wildlife charities including the RSPB have expressed frustration with the stalled Bycatch Mitigation Initiative.

Immediate and critical action is needed to eliminate the threat of bycatch. The WCA urges the UK Government to live up to its words in 2022 and demonstrate its commitment to a healthy marine environment, where the protection of cetaceans isn’t just a legal requirement but an active priority.

In the meantime, we will continue our efforts, through the ‘Dolphins Aren’t Discard’ campaign with Sussex Dolphin Project, to raise awareness of the dangers of bycatch and call for greater transparency and stronger legislation.

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