Increasing incidents of dolphins washing up dead with gunshot wounds around the Italian coast are being linked to some local fishermen who blame the dolphins for poor fish and squid catches.
Despite the dolphins being officially protected, it is thought that a number of the fishermen have decided to take matters into their own hands and have been shooting dolphins with spear guns and rifles.
Bad feeling towards the dolphins is particularly high around the Aeolian Islands, which sit between Sicily and the Italian mainland. Analysis of the resident bottlenose dolphin population in the region shows that their numbers have not increased in the past 15 years. There are also a number of striped dolphins in the area.
The fishermen there say that the dolphins follow their boats and take the fish but over-fishing in the seas around the islands has also been cited as a possible cause, resulting in the dolphins hunting for prey closer to the fishing boats.
After the issue was raised in the Italian parliament this week, Raffaele Ranucci, a senator with the centre-left Democratic Party said: “We need to find solutions as quickly as possible that will combine respect for the environment and marine wildlife with the needs of the fishermen.”
Incidents of dolphins being shot at or speared have also been recorded in the US, particularly around the Gulf of Mexico.