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Entanglement in fishing gear and other causes of death in cetaceans stranded on the coasts of England and Wales
  1. J. K. Kirkwood, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS1,1,
  2. P. M. Bennett, DPhil1,
  3. P. D. Jepson, BVMS, MRCVS1,
  4. T. Kuiken, DVM2,
  5. V. R. Simpson, BVSc, DTVM, MRCVS3 and
  6. J. R. Baker, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS4
  1. 1 Institute of Zoology, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY.
  2. 2 Department of Veterinary Pathology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, 52 Campus Drive, Saskatoon S7N 5B4, Canada
  3. 3 Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, Veterinary Investigation Unit, Polwhele, Truro TR4 9AD
  4. 4 Department of Veterinary Pathology, University of Liverpool, Leahurst, Neston, Wirral, Merseyside L64 7TE


Between August 1990 and September 1995 the carcases of 422 cetaceans of 12 species that had died around the coasts of England and Wales were examined. There were 234 harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), 138 common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), and 50 individuals of 10 other species of dolphins and whales. The cause of death was diagnosed in 320 (76 per cent) of them. The most frequent cause of death in the harbour porpoises and common dolphins was entanglement in fishing gear (bycatch). Of the cases in which the cause of death was established, 66 (38 per cent) of 176 harbour porpoises, 86 (80 per cent) of 108 common dolphins, and six (19 per cent) of 31 individuals of other species had been bycaught. Neonatal starvation, pneumonia and generalised infections accounted for a further 31 per cent of the diagnosed causes of death in harbour porpoises. The proportion of stranded common dolphins that had been bycaught was consistently high except during 1995, but the proportion of stranded harbour porpoises which had been bycaught increased in each successive year.

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  • Dr Kirkwood's present address is The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, 8 Hamilton Close, South Mimms, Potters Bar, Herts EN6 3QD

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