Fishing

Italian fishermen blame dolphins for poor fishing conditions, go on strike

Sicilian fishermen in the Aeolian Islands claim that dolphins are literally eating up their profits.

Sicilian fishermen in the Aeolian Islands claim that dolphins are literally eating up their profits.  (iStock)

There are plenty of fish in the sea, but anglers in Italy haven’t been able to catch nearly as many as they want — and they say it’s all due to a rising population of very hungry dolphins.

Fishing crews in the Aeolian Islands of northern Sicily are blaming the local bottlenose and striped dolphins for literally eating up their profits, and now they’re hoping to draw the government’s attention to the issue by staging a two-day strike.

"It is an unsustainable situation, every night there is a battle for survival at sea," stated Giuseppe Spinella, the vice president of a local fishing organization.

According to the fishermen, bottlenose and striped dolphins are depleting the area’s fish and squid population by up to 70 percent. The fishermen also claim that dolphins have learned to follow their boats and have been biting through their nets, reports the AFP.

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The fishermen say the situation is so bad that local officials should declare the cetacean scourge a natural disaster, which would thereby entitle them to compensation from the government, reports The Telegraph.

“We have nothing against the dolphins but we must find a solution — it’s the fishermen or the dolphin,” Spinella added.

Some of the area’s anglers have even resorted to killing the dolphins, reports The Telegraph.

“The majority of fishermen don’t wish to harm the dolphins,” said Giovanni Basciano, the VP of a local fishing co-op, “but it is not by chance that there are increasing numbers of animals washing up on the beaches having been shot with spear guns.”

Biologists and conservationists, on the other hand, say that poor fishing conditions aren’t solely the dolphins’ fault; the dolphins themselves are running out of other places to feed.

According to Monica Blasi, a local biologist who spoke with La Repubblica, "The problem is diminishing fish stocks pushing (dolphins) towards the boats.”

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The USDA, too, reported that Italian fishing production has already been on the decline. According to an analysis in 2010, the country suffers from “declining fish stocks and a fragmented fishing industry.” And since the average Italian eats about 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of fish per year, the country has had to rely “heavily on imports to bridge the gap between steady consumer demand and reduced national output,” the report stated.

Regardless, the issue was addressed in Italian parliament on Wednesday by Sen. Raffaele Ranucci.

“We need to find solutions as quickly as possible that will combine respect for the environment and marine wildlife with the needs of the fishermen,” he said.

Blasi also told The Telegraph that local fisheries are planning to experiment with devices called “pingers,” which produce a frequency that deters dolphins but not fish.

“We’re going to start testing them out in May,” she said.