Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dolphin death toll of Western Australia is blamed on Indonesian fishing practices

AN ALARMING dolphin death toll has been blamed on Indonesians fishing in north-western waters, with thousands estimated by the West Australian Government to be dying each year.

Dolphins are being taken for bait and for food, according to the WA Government, which says there is widespread public concern about the destructive environmental effects of illegal fishing.

Its claim has been challenged by the Federal Government, which said yesterday that the limited evidence showed few dolphins were found on arrested fishing boats.

The report to the WA Fisheries minister, Jon Ford, found that hundreds of tonnes of whole shark were being caught for shark fin, and trochus shell faced local depletion.

It also estimated dolphins were being caught at the rate of around 3650 a year, or 10 each day.
Species that may range the warm tropical waters of the north-west, include the Indo-Pacific humpback, the pantropical, bottlenose and spinner dolphins.

Mr Ford said the environmental toll was estimated by interviewing state fisheries officers involved in arresting illegal fishing boats, then multiplying average catches. He said the Commonwealth had refused access to information it had about the problem.

"While the report confirms my fears on the impact on WA's fisheries, I am extremely concerned about the alarming numbers of dolphins being targeted by illegal foreign fishermen," Mr Ford said.
However, dolphins have been found on only three Indonesian fishing vessels apprehended by Australia, the federal Fisheries Minister, Eric Abetz, said in a statement. "None of these was caught off Western Australia."

A spokesman for Senator Abetz, Brad Stansfield, added that there was no doubt Indonesian poachers chased dolphins for bait. "They do not target them because they are running out of stocks of shark," he said.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"