Small-scale hunts are known or belived to still exist in St Helena, the Indonesian islands of Lamalera and Lamakera and the Solomon Islands.
For more than 40 years, one of the largest directed kills of dolphins in the world took place in the Black Sea where Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union took tens of thousands of harbour porpoises, bottlenose and common dolphins annually. The USSR and Bulgaria imposed a ban on the killing of dolphins in their waters in 1966; Turkey, the last country to stop its Black Sea hunt, ceased operations in 1983 following international pressure.
Not all the small cetaceans which are killed deliberately are taken as part of an organized hunt. Killer whales are regularly shot on sight by coastal fishermen in iceland, Norway and Canada because of fears that these predators might steal fish from nets and hooks, or deplete fish stocks.
Harbour porpoises, which mainly inhabit coastal waters, are especially vulnerable to the effects of inshore gill nets. In the bay of Funday and in the Gulf of Maine, situated on the eastern coast of Canada and the USA, at least 500-600 harbour porpoises are entangled every year in gill nets set to catch cod, pollock and other bottom-dwelling fish. This represents almost 7.5 per cent of this area's estimated total population - a cause for concern to many scientists and conservationists.
In the North Sea, it is estimated that some 3,000 harbour porpoises are caught annually in nets set by Danish cod fisheries. Some 1,500 are caught each year, directly as well as accidentally, in salmon gill nets off Greenland. Prior to 1976, when foreign fishing operations were phased out in Greenland waters, the total annual catch was around 2,500-3,000, out of an estiamted total population of 15,000.
The effects of entanglement can be particularly acute on those species that have a limited distribution. Up to 100 of the scarce Heaviside's dolphins are drowned every year in fishing nets off the southern coast of Africa.
Hector's dolphin, which is perhaps the rarest of the marine dolphins and is found only in waters around New Zealand, is threatened in some areas by both commercial and amatuer fishermen. Intensive scientific research combined with growing public concern has prompted the New Zealand government to designate Banks Peninsula, near the city of Christchurch on the South Island, a marine sancturary. In this area, where most of the dolphins were being caught, nets are now prohibited during the summer months.
Commercial fisheries may also be inflicting loner-term damage on dolphin populations by over-exploiting the lower levels in the food chain. the collapse of the herring fishery in the North Sea, between the 1950s and the 1970s, was paralleled by a decline in the southern North Sea's populations of the bottlenose dolphin and harbor porpoise. There is also evidence that white-beaked dolphins have decreased off England's Cornish coast as the area's mackerel fishery has declined.
Large-scale fisheries which catch fish for meal and fertilizer may be threatening stocks of mackerel, sandeel and sprats in the North Sea, all of which form part of the diets of the small ceaceans found in this area. There are definite signs that harbor porpoises, in particular, are declining in areas where sandeel stocks are decreasing.
The conclusions are stark. Dolphins are not only being hunted directly and caught incidentally but the very food they themselves need in order to survive is being over-fished. The increase in demand for the food resources of the ocean will surely intensify over the next decade. much greater legal protection will be needed if many dolphin species are to survive.
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