A WILDLIFE charity is calling on the government to introduce stronger legislation against “deadly” supertrawlers.

Sussex Dolphin Project is concerned that the presence of the controversial factory ships in the waters off Sussex correlates with a spike in the number of dolphins washing up dead.

The organisation has launched a joint campaign with its parent charity the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) demanding “great transparency and stronger legislation” on bycatch from super trawlers.

A petition launched as part of the campaign has already reached more than 1,700 signatures.

Project Lead Thea Taylor: “The time periods when Supertrawlers are fishing in the channel see a marked increase in the number of deceased cetaceans washing up on Sussex beaches, many of them with clear signs of being victims of bycatch.

“Supertrawlers are huge factory ships measuring up to 144 metres long, with nets the size of 450 tennis courts capable of catching thousands of tonnes of fish per trip, yet they target very specific midwater fish species.

"It's unclear how such massive nets can fish sustainably without detrimental impact on other marine species, the wider marine ecosystem and of course our local sustainable fishing community.”

In November, four of the controversial factory ships were fishing in the channel.

The largest was Dutch factory trawler, Carolien which measures 126.22 metres in length.

While all the ships were fishing in international waters - beyond the UK's 12-mile territorial water limit – the local fishing community say their presence damages their livelihoods.

Andrew Gillam, who has fished around the Sussex cost for more than 50 years, said: "Since the so-called supertrawlers have been fishing off the Sussex coast, for the last 30 years, local fisherman, have seen significant changes in catches.

"We have witnessed more dead dolphins washing ashore as well as vast amounts of discarded fish at sea, in deeper waters, since the introduction of supertrawlers.”

The Marine Management Organisation, which is responsible for policing marine activities, has been contacted for a comment.

Sussex Dolphin Project and the WCA hope to take their campaign to the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association (PFA), which represents nine European companies that operate a fleet of 23 vessels, and the UK government.

The charities are also taking part in the Big Give campaign, which runs until December 7th, where any donations received will be doubled by the Big Give Fund.

To donate, visit https://tinyurl.com/big-give-dolphins and to sign the petition, visit https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-stop-dolphins-dying-in-supertrawler-nets.

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