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Leading scientists rank endangered dolphins, porpoises most in need of immediate action

eathe, if they are trapped underwater in fishing nets, they die. In 2003, researchers estimated that more than 300,000 cetaceans are killed in fishing gear each year in the world's oceans.

"Rather than simply identifying the species or populations at greatest risk or the geographical locations where the bycatch problem is most severe, the group was asked to emphasize opportunities, such as situations where the prospects for successful intervention appeared especially good," said Randall Reeves, lead author of the report and the chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Cetacean Specialist Group. "It's crucial to give guidance to agencies and organizations on how they should invest their resources for bycatch mitigation."

Between 1993 and 2003, fisheries in the United States introduced changes that reduced cetacean bycatch to one-third of its previous levels. But so far little of this success has been transferred to other countries, and in much of the rest of the world, progress on bycatch mitigation has been slow or nonexistent.

"These accidental deaths can be significantly reduced, often with very simple, low-cost solutions. The United States and several other countries have significantly reduced bycatch in their waters. Slight modifications in fishing gear can mean the difference between life of death for dolphins," said Baragona. "But for many of these threatened dolphins and porpoises, we need to act now before it's too late."

In April, WWF's International Smart Gear Competition awarded a prize to a promising gillnet design concept using glowing ropes and stiffer nets that may help cetaceans see gillnets in order to avoid them and to escape if they do accidentally swim into the net.

Species and populations designated in the report as among the top priorities for investment of resources are:

* Irrawaddy dolphins in the crab net/trap fishery in Malampaya Sound, Philippines
* Irrawaddy dolphins
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Source:World Wildlife Fund


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