Mystery surrounds surge in dolphin deaths in Cornwall

Warning: Some may find the images in this article distressing

  • By ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

Campaigners counting dead dolphins on Cornwall's beaches have toldITV News it's officially the highest death toll on record.

A total of 125 dolphins were found on the county's shoreline in January and February. This is a dramatic increase compared to the same months in 2016 when 36 were discovered and 2015 when the total was just 14.

Such a startling rise in deaths is a major concern for wildlife campaigners who suspect the fishing industry are responsible for much of it.

Many of the dolphins show clear signs of being caught in fishing gear and investigations are expected to conclude the industry is to blame.

Shortage of food and disease are thought to be some of the other causes.

The previous record for dolphin deaths in January and February was 120 in 2003 but that was at the peak of the pair trawl fishing activity, which was subsequently - and is still - banned.

The fishing industry does not benefit from hauling up dolphins and almost everyone will tell you they don't want them caught in their gear.

They are mindful of public sensitivities towards dolphins, and trawlers over a certain size must use sonar devices to warn the animals that they are in the area.

A total of 125 dolphins were found on the county's shoreline in January and February. Credit: ITV News

Dolphins are renowned for their intelligence and are able to swim exceptionally close to boats without getting into trouble.

All of which begs the question what exactly is going on? No one yet has a definitive answer but with so many deaths there is a pressing need for understanding.