Reducing the accidental catch of whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK fisheries

23 May 2019

Reducing the accidental catch of whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK fisheries

A report on reducing the accidental capture of whales, dolphins and porpoises is launched today.

Accidental capture in fishing gear, known as bycatch, is one of the greatest threats facing whales, dolphins and porpoises. It has contributed to the decline and extinction of some populations and species.

The Hauling Up Solutions report is an outcome of a joint Cefas-Defra-ZSL workshop, to assess how to reduce the accidental capture of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in UK fisheries. The recent workshop, held at ZSL (Zoological Society of London) in March, brought together a wide range of over 60 stakeholders including fishermen, scientists and conservationists from around the world to consider ways to better record and reduce the bycatch of whales, dolphins and porpoises in UK fishing gear.

Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Robert Goodwill, said:

”I know there is no easy solution to tackling this issue, but I also know that we all have the same goal – nobody wants to see dolphins and porpoises being killed in our fisheries.”

Finfish and shellfish fishermen from England and Scotland directly affected by the issue were at the heart of the discussion. David Bond, a fisherman from Cornwall added:

”We see cetaceans every day and there has to be an acceptable level of bycatch, as accidents happen. However, anything that can bring bycatch down that’s cost effective has to be good.”

The workshop report outlines clear recommendations and key next steps on how cetacean bycatch will be tackled in UK waters. These include to collaborate with the fishing industry at a regional level to collect more detailed information on cetacean bycatch and abundance; and using the latest technology to bring together all of what we know about cetacean bycatch, strandings and bycatch mitigation into one, easily accessible place.

Rob Deaville, ZSL, said:

“Bycatch has been the primary direct man-made driver of mortality in UK stranded cetaceans that we’ve examined since the start of the strandings programme in 1990. It’s vital that we all work more closely together now, to try to reduce the impact of this significant threat.”

Workshop co-organiser Stuart Hetherington, a Marine Biologist from Cefas, added:

“The information in our report will be used to prioritise where action is most needed in the UK, with scientifically robust bycatch mitigation trials, alongside monitoring, beginning in the autumn.”

Defra will take forward the specific recommendations from this workshop to develop more comprehensive monitoring techniques and effective mitigation measures.

The full set of recommendations and next steps can be found at