Dolphins have long been the accidental victims of coastal fishing practices, but only on a limited scale. In recent years, not only have these fishing activities intensified but also new technologies have been introduced that allow 'industrial scale' fishing on the high seas to be carried out with deadly efficiency.
Unregulated and indiscriminate, these methods make no distinctions between fish and marine mammals. In some cases, dolphins are deliberately targeted in order to catch fish more efficiently. As a result, literally hundreds of thousands of dolphins are now dying every year.
In addition, many fishermen are now turning to dolphins as a main catch because existing fish stocks have been delpleted, either as a result of bad resource management or because of the effects of this intensification.
Ironically, small cetaceans are often blamed for depleting the fish stocks and are hunted as a result. Governments often encourage this view in order to avoid having to admit the failure of their fishery policies.
Many superficial solutions have been tried which seek to coerce nations or cultural groups into abandoning or modifying their fishing practices. But the problems the dolphins face are inextricably linked with the development and management of the resources of the world's oceans. Piecemeal solutions will not suffice.
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