18th May 2022

Not in our Nets – Saving UK Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales

Millie Smith

We’re honoured to have a guest blog from Julia Pix, communications manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation about the significant negative impacts fishing nets have on Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales.


Would you be surprised to know that the single biggest killer of dolphins, porpoises and whales is fishing gear?

Like you, dolphins, porpoises and whales breathe air. When they get caught in a fishing net or rope and can’t reach the surface to breathe, they panic and can sustain terrible injuries before suffocating to death. It’s a horrific way to die.

More than 1,000 dolphins, porpoises and whales die this way as what’s known as ‘bycatch’ in fishing nets in UK seas every year.

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we’re working hard to prevent these horrible deaths and we enlisted the support of Watford and former England goalkeeper Ben Foster.

Talking about his support, Ben said: ‘It’s my job to keep things out of nets – to make important saves. So I got involved with the #NotInOurNets campaign to use my role in football as a platform for change, to help save whales and dolphins and keep them out of nets.

BenTowel swimming

‘Around 1,000 goals hit the back of the net in a Premier League season, and more than 1,000 dolphins and porpoises die in UK fishing nets every year. By putting pressure on our fisheries ministers, we can keep dolphins safe in UK seas.’


The solution

Current initiatives including changes to fishing gear, no-fishing zones and restrictions in certain areas at specific times of the year can save lives. But these initiatives alone are not enough to stop dolphins, porpoises and whales suffering and dying in fishing nets. More must be done to find a sustainable solution. Too little has been done for too long. As Elvis once said: a little less conversation, a little more action.

Humpback Dunbar Scotland credit East Lothain Ranger Service

Push for change

The UK and devolved governments have a legal mandate to prevent and, where possible, end the bycatch of dolphins, porpoises and whales as well as other species, such as seabirds, sharks and seals.

We need to start with the areas and fisheries where most whales and dolphins are dying. The most urgent to address are harbour porpoise deaths in gillnets in the Celtic Sea, bottlenose and common dolphin deaths in gillnets in the south-west of England, and humpback and minke whale entanglements in Scotland, where whales get tangled in the ropes used to connect the creel pots uses to catch prawns, crabs and lobsters.

There is no good reason to wait for action. If we save whales and dolphins, we stop the suffering, create a healthier ocean to help fight the climate crisis and ultimately save our planet.


Porpoise Conwy Wales credit WDC


Visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation website to find out how you can help by taking action or making a donation. Find out about our Coastal Pollution Challenge seeking to find a sustainable solution to help prevent these issues.