Whales, dolphins and seals are not protected by UK policy, say MPs

Marine mammals including whales, dolphins and seals are being failed by UK government, MPs have said in a recent environment, food and rural affairs committee (Efra) report.

The report found that current legal protections for marine animals are incoherent and not sufficient to preserve species. MPs highlighted that UK policy on the issue is poorer than other countries, citing the 1972 US Marine Protection Act as an example.

The MPs urged ministers not to engage in trade deals with countries that still hunt protected species – such as Iceland, Norway, Japan and the Faroe Islands.

They also emphasised the danger of ‘bycatch’, where fish inadvertently get trapped in fishing gear. Estimates suggest that 650,000 marine mammals are killed in this way each year, as well as underwater noise from offshore drilling, which can impact marine life that depends on its acute hearing.

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The Committee Chair Sir Robert Goodwill said: “We should do more to stop whale hunting through our new trade deals. But snarling marine mammals in fishing gear wreaks a far greater toll. Starting with the biggest boats, we must stop this industrial-scale killing.”

The BBC recently reported that a minke whale had been spotted leaping from the coast of Scarborough, a behaviour not commonly seen by the species.

Local MP Sir Robert Goodwill said the sighting was an “auspicious sign” for the success of the report.

“We’ve made lots of recommendations for helping protect marine mammals in the UK and abroad. But we could never in our wildest dreams have hoped to have them highlighted by a minke whale off the coast of my back yard in Scarborough.

“I like to think the whale is asking everyone to read the report – and asking the government to take its recommendations seriously”.

Nature and the environmentNewsPolicy

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