A MARINE campaigner said dolphins are being killed due to “an unprecedented number of super trawlers” after five washed up on beaches in five days.

Coral Evans was alerted to a dead dolphin on Brighton beach near the West Pier on Sunday, with netting around its tail.

It comes after Coastguard teams reported a dead dolphin on West Beach in Selsey on Saturday, while there have been two strandings on Shoreham beach and one on East Preston beach since Thursday.

SEE ALSO: Nine supertrawlers are currently fishing off Sussex coast

The Brighton Dolphin Project said it is the highest number of strandings in a five-day period since the charity’s records began.

The Argus: The dolphin which was found on Brighton beach on Sunday, with netting around its tail The dolphin which was found on Brighton beach on Sunday, with netting around its tail

Ms Evans is founder of Leave No Trace Brighton – a campaign group set up after lockdown to promote responsible rubbish disposal on beaches. The group has also been raising awareness about the environmental impact of “super trawler” fishing vessels.

Ms Evans said: “We have an unprecedented amount of super trawlers in the Channel at the moment and a lot of these dolphins are washing up wrapped with netting.

“Dolphins and porpoises are protected by law but they’re still getting trapped in these mile-long trawler nets that are dragged along the seabed.

“All sea life gets caught in them and dolphins will sometimes drown. When they’re pulled in they’re just cut out.

“It’s horrific, a horrible way to die, and it’s been increasing in the past few weeks.”

Ms Evans believes the increase is due to an “influx” of super trawlers fishing in Marine Protected Areas while Brexit negotiations continue.

She said: “It’s a lot to do with Brexit as the Fisheries Bill has still not been decided. It seems to be an opportunity for people to exploit what’s happening with negotiations.

“There’s a gap in the regulations and super trawlers can legally still fish in Marine Protected Areas.

“The end result is we’re seeing our ocean life dying. Dolphins are top of the food chain and often said to be representative of its overall health.

“What’s happening in the Channel right now is eco-side.”

The Argus: Dutch trawler the Alida, which was fishing off the coast in Newhaven earlier this monthDutch trawler the Alida, which was fishing off the coast in Newhaven earlier this month

Earlier this month, nine super trawler vessels were reported to be fishing off the Sussex coast. The industrial vessels catch hundreds of tonnes of fish every day.

The Brighton Dolphin Project said that since November 18 there has been a maximum of ten super trawlers in the Channel, and one was still fishing yesterday.

READ MORE: Afrika and Willem Van Dee Zwan supertrawlers off Sussex

Some campaigners say the sudden increase in trawler numbers is being driven by Brexit.

From January 1, the government will have new powers to ban super trawlers from Marine Protected Areas beyond 12 miles. 

Thea Taylor, co-lead at Brighton Dolphin Project, said: “We have cross-referenced our strandings data with super trawlers fishing in the Channel, and it shows 87 per cent of the 23 strandings between September last year and December 21, 2020, occurred when super trawlers had been in the area.

“We do not yet know enough about the size of cetacean populations in the channel to estimate the impact of this activity, but super trawler activity and cetacean strandings are clearly linked.”

The Argus: Photo: Mike PenningtonPhoto: Mike Pennington

Will McCallum, head of oceans for Greenpeace UK, said: “Even inside the areas of the Channel our government claims to be protecting, we see constant examples of destructive fishing, including by super trawlers.

“The government must use its new powers as soon as the transition period ends and act decisively to ban destructive fishing boats like super trawlers from all of our Marine Protected Areas.”

The Marine Management Organisation is responsible for policing marine activities. It said in a statement: “The activity of super trawlers is managed in the same way as all fishing vessels.

“The Marine Management Organisation closely monitors vessels, including large trawlers, when fishing in English waters.

“We boarded and inspected two of the vessels on December 8 and 12 and no infringements were found during the inspections.”