Media Release Fisheries

Unacceptable dolphin deaths in southern Australian fishery

December 12, 2018

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Humane Society International (HSI) have today called on the Australian Government to urgently act to protect dolphins in southern Australia.

In the first nine months of 2018, 47 dolphins were drowned in fishing nets off southern Australia. This follows the drowning deaths of 64 dolphins in 2017 in the same fishery.

Tooni Mahto, Campaign Manager at AMCS said, “The government has known for some time that dolphins are dying in fishing nets. Last year 64 were killed, and the fishery is on track to beat that number by the end of 2018.

“If the Australian Government wants to champion sustainable Australian seafood, it needs to urgently clean up its act, because every week our beloved dolphins are drowning in fishing nets to bring fish to our plates”.

Alexia Wellbelove, Senior Program Manager at HSI said, “The slow drowning of dolphins in fishing nets is a horrific death. The fishery’s managers must make greater efforts to stop the catch of dolphins, in line with what the Australian public expects.”

The fishery uses gillnets which hang in the water and are used to target intended catch species, but also entangle bottlenose and common dolphins that can’t easily see or locate them in the water.

“The Government has a responsibility under our national environment laws to protect dolphins from fishing activity,” said Ms Wellbelove. “Setting aside some areas of the ocean where dolphins can be safe from the threat of fishing should be an essential part of a modern fisheries management regime”.

AMCS and HSI are calling on the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Richard Colbeck, to ensure areas where a high number of dolphins are being caught are closed to fishing activity to protect dolphins.

For Media contact:

Ingrid Neilson, AMCS Communications Manager: 0421 972 731
Ben Vozzo, HSI Communications: 0450 25 057.

Background information:

The fishery in question is the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF). Dolphins are being caught in high numbers in the Gillnet Hook and Trap sector of the SESSF that fishes in Commonwealth-managed waters off South Australia and Victoria.

The Coorong Zone was temporarily closed in September 2011 following the deaths of 50 dolphins in 12 months.

All dolphins are protected under Australian national environment laws.