The Bycatcher in the Rye
“Save the whales!” “Save the dolphins!” Those were rallying cries of the environmental movement in the 1980s and ’90s, and they culminated in a successful campaign for “dolphin-safe” tuna — that is, tuna-fishing practices in the Pacific Ocean that wouldn’t harm marine mammals. Unfortunately, scientists now say that commercial fishing in the Atlantic and elsewhere is still killing dolphins and whales, including the endangered Northern Atlantic right whale. In what is apparently the first worldwide assessment of the scope of the problem, scientists at Duke University concluded that 60,000 dolphins, porpoises, and whales die every year from encounters with fishing equipment, making bycatch the leading cause of death among those mammals. In response to the findings, the World Wildlife Fund announced the formation of a committee to reduce bycatch by helping to teach fisheries outside the U.S. how to keep marine mammals away from boats and nets.