Record dolphin sightings lead to record strandings off south coast

  • Video report by ITV News Meridian's Andy Dickenson

This summer saw record sightings of dolphins around the south coast with dozens spotted and filmed, as well as porpoises and seals. 

But that has been followed by record numbers of dolphin strandings, with campaigners calling for more action to stop 'super trawlers' that they insist are responsible.

The dolphins basically get caught up in the nets because they are moving faster than they are, and then they can't get to the surface. Once they're in the nets their immediate reaction is to go up, they panic, they try to surface and they basically drown.

Thea Taylor, Brighton Dolphin Project

Two super trawlers have recently been fishing off the Sussex coast. We contacted both operators who responded robustly to campaigners' concerns.

Freezer trawlers, including our vessel Alida, are strictly monitored by fisheries control and by science. We have developed a scientific self sampling programme on our vessels. From all this data collection no evidence is to be found that our vessels do by-catch significant numbers of cetaceans.

W. van der Zwan, W.van der Zwan & Son

We are working to any eliminate any incident of cetacean by-catch in our fishery. This includes but is not limited to the use of ‘pingers’ on all our vessels, active in dolphin sensitive areas all year round.

Matthew Cox, North Atlantic Fishing Company

Local fisherman Ben Dunwell is based in Newhaven and says he's regularly seeing dolphin bodies - and supports Government plans to put CCTV on fishing boats.

If they claim they're not killing dolphins then they won't mind having these cameras aboard. I think they should just install them themselves and show the world - and if that's sustainable, we're on their side.

Ben Dunwell, fisherman

Experts believe our appetite, as well as warming sea temperatures, leave dolphins caught in a perfect storm.

Others insist our waters are being over-fished. Whether these magical mammals can survive remains to be seen.