Sunday, September 03, 2006

Dolphin displays uncommon aggressive behaviour off the French coast

For several weeks, an enraged dolphin has been terrorising the French Atlantic coast, attacking boats and knocking fishermen into the drink, French media reported Wednesday. "He's like a mad dog," complained Hneri Le Lay, president of the association of fishermen and yachtsmen of the port of Brezellec, in Brittany. "He has caused at least 1,500 euros worth of damage in the past few weeks." The dolphin, who has been named Jean Floch, has destroyed rowboats, overturned open boats, flooded engines and twisted mooring lines.

Worse, two fishermen were knocked into the sea after the dolphin overturned their boat. "I don't want to see any widows or orphans," Le Lay warned. "This could end badly." Jean Floch has been a popular and familiar sight along the coast of Brittany since 2002. But experts say that he must have been excluded from his group recently to have turned so violent. According to Sami Hassani, of the Oceanapolis Department of Sea Mammals, "because of their dominant personalities and their sexual maturity, males could become dangerous."

In June, after several incidents involving Jean Floch and several bathers and pleasure boat sailors, police established a crisis cell with local politicians and scientists. The unit recommended to local mayors to ban swimming in areas where the dolphin was known to appear. However, the dolphin has become a popular tourist attraction, luring divers and swimmers despite the ban.

Le Lay has a solution to the problem. "We put mad animals to sleep," he said. Then, perhaps remembering that the dolphin is a protected species, he added: "I like dolphins, but this one should be removed or locked up very quickly." However, researchers will soon be trying a more humane solution, an acoustic repellant that will also be used on boats fishing for tuna.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"