Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has called a special meeting of Cabinet ministers and representatives of conservation organisations to try to find a solution to the record number of dead dolphins that have washed up on the country’s Black Sea coastline.
So far in July 2016, a total of 91 dolphins have been found dead on Bulgaria’s Black Sea beaches – more than the total found dead in all of 2015. The cause of the deaths is unknown, but this is just the latest year in which large numbers have been found dead on beaches.
In just three days, from July 15 to 17, on beaches between Pomorie in south-eastern Bulgaria and Aheloy, in Bourgas Province, volunteers from the Green Balkans conservation organisation have found 35 dead dolphins, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said on July 21.
The dead included dolphin pups, some in an advanced state of decomposition.
The main suspected cause of the deaths is sea-bottom trawling for turbot, the report said.
The Green Balkans volunteers found that all the dead were of the harbour porpoise variety (Phocoena phocoena), protected mammals under Bulgarian and European Union legislation.
Dimitar Popov of the Green Balkans organisation said that this type was, on a global scale, the one that suffered most from “accidental” entanglement in fishing nets.
One theory for this is that the dolphins’ echolocation capabilities may not fully detect the nets.
While by law the diamond holes in sea-bottom trawling nets should be at least 40cm, poachers use nets with much smaller gaps, of 18 to 20cm. The reason is that this enables poachers to catch smaller size fish, such as turbot. The nets are thin and made of plastic, difficult for the dolphins to see.
Popov said that in the case of an adult dolphin found on July 17, there were obvious signs of human intervention, carving of the chest muscles. This was most likely the work of fishermen, he said.
Yassen Kirov, deputy head of Bulgaria’s Executive Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture, said; “I do not think it’s deliberate. At the same time, I think that the fishing industry is not responsible for the deaths of these dolphins”.
According to Kirov, agency inspectors conduct daily inspections on the water and on land and so far there had been no detection of catching of dolphins.
The agency had issued more than 100 citations for unauthorised fishing. There was no evidence of organised poaching, just a few isolated cases, according to the agency.
Milena Yaramova of the regional inspectorate of environment and water in Bourgas told BNT that the cause of the deaths had not been found and autopsies were required.
Miroslav Kalugerov, head of the national nature protection office, said that arrangements were being made between the relevant state authorities so that, if a dead dolphin was found in suitable condition to be autopsied, it could be moved as fast as possible to the Institute for Fishery Resources in Bulgaria’s main Black Sea city Varna.
(Photo: 4028mdk09, via Wikimedia Commons)