Costly new laws

DOLPHINS ARE to be protected by new European Union regulations that will enforce strict new codes of practice for fishermen. It is estimated that around 170 Portuguese fishing boats will be affected by the guidelines.

The new EU rules come into force in January 2005. They will impose a gradual reduction in the use of drift nets (in which dolphins can be accidentally trapped) and their total prohibition after January 2008.

The measures, approved last week in the Fisheries and Agriculture Department of the EU’s Council of Ministers, will apply to all boats over 15 metres long. The law also states that the use of sonar systems alerting fishermen to the presence of dolphins in their nets will become compulsory after January 2008. Boats will also have to have a specialist on board who will serve as a dolphin observer or, in the absence of this, other forms of monitoring will have to be introduced.

The Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, Armando Sevinate Pinto, noted that “the proposed measures will be difficult to apply”, especially considering the nature of the fishing fleets operating in Portuguese waters. “Primarily, we are talking about small vessels without the capacity to allow an observer on board. The alternative of using other monitoring mechanisms seems equally difficult,” declared Pinto. It has been estimated that the new measures could cost between three and four million euros a year to impose.