Cetacean by-catch: casting the net for solutions

By-catch is defined as the accidental entanglement of non-target species in fishing gear and has global impact on many species, including cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). 

The UK government has been funding the investigation and mitigation of cetacean by-catch in UK waters for many years, including through a long-term study on strandings that is coordinated by ZSL. The collaborative Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) has been investigating UK stranded cetaceans since 1990, by conducting post-mortem examinations to try to learn more about the threats these species face.

The CSIP described one of the first unusual mortality events linked to by-catch impact, during a large scale stranding event in Cornwall in 1992. It has also found by-catch to be the most common cause of mortality over the 27 year history of the programme, with over 730 cases diagnosed during the 3700 post-mortem examinations which have been carried out since 1990. In this meeting, speakers will explore the issue of cetacean by-catch and what we have learnt about this threat in the UK. 

Which species are affected and what does the pathology of stranded cetaceans examined at post-mortem tell us about the welfare impact of by-catch?  What are the policy drivers for investigating by-catch and mitigating against it at both a UK and a European level? And what can be done in the future to try to reduce the impact of by-catch on threatened cetacean species?

Download talk abstracts PDF icon Agenda and abstracts: Cetacean by-catch 10 April 2018 (519.46 KB)



  • George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
    Video address

  • Paul D Jepson, Institute of Zoology, ZSL
    By-catch in cetaceans: insights from pathological investigations (Listen)

Paul Jepson is a European Veterinary Specialist in Wildlife Population Health.  He has worked at the ZSL Institute of Zoology for 25 years on the pathology of stranded marine mammals. He has published over 200 scientific papers and reports on many different aspects of marine mammal science.  He was a Scientific Advisor to BBC Blue Planet II last year and has recently been invited onto the expert Working Group for Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events in the United States.

  • Sarah Dolman, Senior Policy Manager, Whales and Dolphin Conservation
    Welfare impact of large whale entanglements (Listen)

Working for Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Sarah has focused on marine mammal welfare issues for 20 years. She assists with policy development surrounding cetaceans, and promotes benign research and increasing knowledge of culture in cetacean societies. Her knowledge includes European legislation that protects wildlife, including from human activities such as bycatch. Sarah has an MRes in fisheries science and was appointed to the International Whaling Commission Bycatch Mitigation Initiative Expert Panel last month.

  • Simon Northridge, Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews
    Accounting for porpoises: net costs and how to reduce them (Listen)

Simon has been working on bycatch for over 30 years. He completed his PhD in London during the 1980s when he spent a fair bit of time working with both the Sea Mammal Research Unit and the IoZ, collecting dead porpoises and helping with necropsies. Simon spent a couple of years in the US as a post-doctoral research fellow with the National Marine Fisheries Service, learning about monitoring programmes.  Since 1995 he has been based in Scotland with the SMRU establishing and running a bycatch monitoring programme for UK fisheries, and working on measures to help fisheries reduce the bycatch of marine mammals.

  • Catherine Bell, Policy advisor, International Fisheries and Marine Species Protection
    Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Cat has worked at Defra since 2015 and has been leading on the cetacean policy portfolio for 18 months. Cat has a background in science, having studied Biology as an undergraduate at Swansea and Ecology and Conservation as a postgraduate at Imperial College London. Cat works internationally on agreements such as the International Whaling Commission and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species, as well as domestically developing policies for cetaceans in UK waters. She is currently leading the by-catch policy work in the team and will be taking it forward over the coming months.

  • Chaired by Rob Deaville, CSIP Project Manager, Institute of Zoology, ZSL

Rob Deaville is the Project Manager of the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) and has been in this role since 2006. He coordinates the delivery of the contract objectives and has over 20 years’ experience in strandings response and investigation, in the UK and internationally. Rob is also a member of the International Whaling Commissions Expert Panel on Strandings.

The UK Cetaceans Strandings Investigation Programme is co-funded by Defra and the Devolved Governments in Scotland and Wales.  For more information about the programme please visit www.ukstrandings.org



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