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April 22, 2000

What is being done to reduce the impact of driftnet fishing on cetaceans?

Although they may be designed to select for size, driftnets fail entirely when it comes to selecting for species. Consequently, many large-bodied animals including marine mammals, turtles, sharks and birds that come into contact with the driftnet, become entangled and die, often by drowning.

In response to this global problem of a wasteful fishing practice, where in many cases the by-catch of small cetaceans has threatened the very existence of whole populations, the United Nations General Assembly has passed a consensus resolution (46/215) calling for an end to the use of large scale drift-nets on the high seas. Countries using driftnets have finally agreed to a moratorium. It came into effect on Dec 31st 1992.

Despite this reprieve, the moratorium allowed driftnets that were no more than 2.5km in length. Therefore, many fisheries are still operating and have simply turned to using a greater number of smaller sized nets. There is still grave concern for the threats posed to cetaceans by driftnets. Driftnets are still being deployed on the high seas due to a lack of enforcement, and it continues to be legal to deploy drift nets within the 200-mile limit of coastal nations.

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