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End Bycatch - stop deaths in fishing gear

Entanglement in fishing nets and gear, or ‘bycatch’, is the biggest threat facing dolphins, porpoises and whales. Hundreds of thousands of individuals die a slow and painful death every year. It’s pushed some species to the brink of extinction. No fisherman wants to kill a dolphin so we need to work together to make fishing safer.
A common dolphin being retrieved after dying in a net.

We NEED your support to help us END THIS SUFFERING

Getting trapped in fishing gear is a horrific way to die. Like you, whales and dolphins can't breathe underwater. They panic and can endure terrible wounds and broken bones as they try to escape. When they can’t struggle any more, they close their blowhole and suffocate. Others carry gear with them for months to years as they slowly die from infections and starvation.

To wipe out this danger and save hundreds of thousands of lives a year requires a huge joint effort. We all have our part to play. WDC is working on three key areas to reduce and eventually end dolphin deaths in nets and fishing gear.


1. Working with governments to ensure laws are toughened up to stop dolphins, porpoises and whales dying in fishing nets and gear

  • campaigning for strong national UK laws to stop deaths in fishing gear in UK waters after Brexit.
  • working within the EU to strengthen protection measures in Europe and hold countries to account.
  • arguing for better monitoring on-board fishing vessels.
  • representing whales and porpoises on federally appointed US task forces

2. Teaming up with scientists and fishermen to find safer fishing methods

  • supporting scientists to find solutions and technologies, like pingers, to help porpoises detect and avoid nets.
  • collaborating with fishermen to help them avoid entanglements.

3. Fighting to save species on the brink

  • petitioning the US and Canadian governments to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales
  • working in New Zealand to save the Maui and Hector’s dolphins who are facing extinction because of entanglements.

Thousands of porpoises and dolphins die in gillnets and trawl nets each year.
Thousands of porpoises and dolphins die in gillnets and trawl nets each year.

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WDC has been working to stop deaths in nets for more than 20 years. Some of our successes include:

  • The UK government banned trawlers within 12 nautical miles of UK coast in the English Channel after our work with Greenpeace revealed the horrifying number of common dolphins dying in fishing nets
  • As a result of WDC campaigning, the UK Fisheries Minister committed to being a world leader in tackling dolphin, porpoise and whale bycatch and significantly reducing the numbers dying in UK nets
  • Campaigning from WDC and partners resulted in a US ruling to reduce the amount of vertical line used along the US east coast to reduce the entanglement risk to endangered North Atlantic right whales


£/$ 10 will help us to present evidence to EU and regional experts and governments and call for better protection.

£/$ 20 would enable us to meet with the fishing industry and Scottish Natural Heritage to explore ways to reduce the numbers of humpback and minke whales getting entangled in Scottish waters.

£/$ 30 could help us to examine existing legislation and determine what new laws we need to reduce the suffering.


Other types of fishing gear that can entangle whales and dolphins
Other types of fishing gear that can entangle whales and dolphins

Sarah Dolman leads WDC's End Bycatch programme. Sarah has a master's degree in fisheries science and has been part of the WDC team, working on a variety of issues, since 1995. Sarah and the team work to develop progressive policy to reduce whale and dolphin deaths in fishing gear.