Two dead dolphins bearing the scars of a final struggle in large fishing nets were today delivered to the French government as Greenpeace renewed calls for a ban on pair trawling - a form of fishing which is estimated to kill thousands of dolphins in the Channel every year.
The dolphins were recently recovered in the Channel by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza and stored in a freezer container. One of the mammals was lactating when her body was discovered, indicating that she had recently given birth. Sixteen French pair trawlers were fishing in a 12-mile radius of her body.
At 9am this morning, Greenpeace volunteers delivered the frozen dolphins to the French Embassy in Knightsbridge, London. The dolphins were left on the steps to the building.
Pair trawlers fish in twos, dragging a huge net between them. The fleet in the Channel is dominated by French boats. Last week a French pair trawl fishermen admitted to Greenpeace that dolphins had died in their nets the previous night, and just two days ago Greenpeace volunteers found three more dead dolphins with their stomachs cut wide open floating in the sea. The animals' stomachs are likely to have been slit in an effort to make them sink.
Oliver Knowles, Greenpeace oceans campaigner, said: "The French pair trawling fleet is the largest in Europe and these dead dolphins are only the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of these animals are killed in the Channel every year and French pair trawlers bear the brunt of responsibility for these unnecessary deaths.
"Until pair trawling is banned, no dolphin in the Channel is safe. The French and UK governments must act immediately."
Greenpeace's flagship the Esperanza left Falmouth on the 17 February to campaign for a total ban on pair trawling for sea bass in the Channel, due to the large amount of dolphin deaths associated with the industry.
Government observers on UK sea bass trawlers last year recorded over 150 dolphins killed by just one pair of trawlers. Government figures estimate that the UK fleet alone was responsible for the deaths of 439 dolphins last year. Greenpeace estimates that the UK and French fleets combined could be killing over 2,000 dolphins a year. If the current kill rate continues it could lead to the extinction of dolphins in the Channel.
Opposition to the industry has been growing in France and recently local line fishermen from North Finistere added their voice to those calling for tighter controls on sea bass fisheries.
Greenpeace have also launched a legal challenge arguing that under the EU Habitats Directive, the UK Government is obliged to take swift and effective action to protect the dolphin population.
For more information, contact the Greenpeace press office on 020 7865 8255.