It is a dangerous time to be a dolphin! Every year thousands and thousands of dolphins are trapped in huge driftnets. They get caught up in the very strong, almost invisible nets. Then they drown. Dolphins are also killed when they are hauled in in nets set around schools of tuna.
In some parts of the world dolphins are deliberately killed by fishermen because they eat the fish they want to catch. Luckily, in other places fishermen see dolphins as friends. There are even reports of dolphins and fishermen working together to catch fish!
In the Faroe Islands each year hundreds of Pilot Whales (a type of dolphin) are driven into very shallow water and killed horribly. Some of them are chopped up to be eaten and the rest are left to rot. Even pregnant females are killed. There is a big campaign to try to stop this dreadful slaughter happening. Some people are refusing to buy anything, especially fish, from the Faroe Islands until the killing is stopped.
Many scientists believe that pollution in the sea is harming dolphins. The sea is polluted in many different ways. Untreated sewage and poisonous chemicals as well as oil spills and dumped rubbish are all dangers to dolphins. When a dolphin eats a fish that is polluted the poisons may stay in the dolphin`s body. Sometimes the poisons may pass from a mother`s body to her calf. The calf may then die.
Some dolphins are captured to be used in dolphin shows or scientific studies. They are stolen from their families. Often dolphins die when they are captured or soon after. The ones that live spend the rest of their lives as prisoners, often in very small pools. Many people enjoy dolphin shows but how many stop to think about how the dolphin is suffering?
Every year dolphins die when they get stuck on beaches. No one knows exactly why it happens. There may be many reasons. The dolphins might be old or ill. Some dolphins found on beaches died at sea and have been washed up by a high tide. The big puzzle is why dolphins which seem healthy become stranded. One idea is that they sometimes make mistakes trying to find their way using the Earth`s magnetic lines of force.
If you ever find a stranded dolphin tell the Coastguard or Police straight away and in the UK, call the Marine Animal Rescue Coalition Hotline 0990 555999.
If it is alive you will want to help but DON`T try to move it yourself. Dolphins are heavy! Never never try to drag a dolphin by the tail or flippers. You could do a lot of damage. Apart from getting help quickly you can do your bit by making sure the dolphin is kept cool and wet. Cover it in wet cloths soaked in sea water. Make sure the blowhole is not covered. Or pour water carefully over it making sure no water goes near the blowhole. Don`t let people bother the dolphin. Keep quiet and calm.
And remember, dolphins are very powerful. Don`t go too near to the tail. If the dolphin thrashes its tail you could be hurt.
Robin Petch and Kris Simpson, Dolphinspotter
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