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Leading marine scientists for the first time have assessed dolphin and porpoise populations around the world which are severely threatened by entanglement in fishing gear and recommended nine urgent priorities for action in a report commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund. These nine projects highlight species threatened by bycatch that will most likely benefit from immediate action and will continue to languish without intervention.

The list of dolphins and porpoises that could recover if changes to fishing methods and other conservation efforts are made includes harbor porpoises in the Black Sea, where thousands of porpoises are killed each year; Atlantic humpback dolphins off the coast of west Africa; and franciscana dolphins in South America. Most of the species on the list are threatened by the widespread use of one type of fishing gear ?gillnets. These nets are difficult for dolphins and porpoises to spot visually or detect with their sonar, so they may become tangled in the netting or in the ropes attached to the nets.

"Almost 1,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die every day in nets and fishing gear. Some species are being pushed to the brink of extinction," said Karen Baragona of WWF's species conservation program. "We developed this ranking to help governments and aid agencies target their investments for the best return."

The report will be submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) at its annual meeting next week in South Korea. The scientific committee of the IWC includes many of the world's leading marine scientists, who last year endorsed the methodology of the WWF report.

The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy last year noted that bycatch is the greatest threat globally to whales, dolphins and porpoises, known scientifically as cetaceans. Bycatch is the accidental capture in fishing gear of species--including cetaceans--that fishermen do not intend to catch. Because cetaceans need to come to the surface to br
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