by Wietse Van Der Werf
An increasing number of mutilated carcasses of Harbor porpoises, on average 1.50 meters in length, have washed up on beaches in recent months at Texel, an island north east of the Dutch mainland. According to Just van den Broek, Director at the marine protection centre Ecomare, the killings of the animals found in recent months can be attributed to fishing vessels which operated along the Dutch coast over the winter period.
It is a worrying development that fishermen kill and cut the porpoises out of their nets, instead of cutting the nets around the animals to free them from being trapped. However, it is nothing new that those operating fishing vessels will often choose cheaper and easier methods of getting rid of so called 'by catch' in order to protect their investments and profits. Many, if not all, will escape prosecution as authorities are reluctant to enforce the appropriate laws and regulations which are supposed to protect the sea mammals.
In the last 3 months, over 100 killed harbor porpoises have washed up on Dutch beaches, compared to a total of 46 in all of 2008. About half of those found were cut up and/or had been mutilated. Some reports say carcasses had the intestines cut out, apparently in an effort to make them sink to the bottom of the sea quicker and hide the evidence of the illegal activity.
The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) has corresponded with the Dutch Minister for Fisheries and the Environment about the situation, and some of the Dutch press has covered the illegal activity. It is clear that such an alarming situation as this needs a quick and concise response in order to put a stop to it. International agreements as well as Dutch law give clear opportunities for prosecution of those responsible.
Dutch authorities have said they are taking this issue seriously.
Nevertheless, activists from Sea Shepherd and other organisations will continue to monitor this situation and investigate further where needed to ensure these beautiful creatures get the justice they deserve.
One of many mutilated porpoises found in recent months
Photo by CJ Camphuysen
Found at Texel Island, 18th January 2009
Photo by Arthur Oosterbaan/Ecomare
Found at Texel Island
Photo by Christine Koersen
Found at Ouddorp, 24th February 2009
Photo by Jaap van der Hiele