Did you know that at least one third of the fish that are caught in commercial fishing nets are thrown back into the sea, dead or dying? Known as bycatch, this may be because they are a fish species that is not valuable to the fishing industry, but it can also be because they are mammals that just happened to get caught in the nets. Bycatch when fishing for tuna in particular is one of the leading causes of death for dolphins and other cetaceans, and their numbers are in steep decline as a result.
“Between 1950 and 2018, the fishing industry unintentionally caught around 4.1 million dolphins”, says Dr. Putu Liza Mustika, who worked on the study. A research team—led by Dr. Charles Anderson of the Maldivian Manta Marine organization—looked at bycatch rates in the Indian ocean to draw its conclusions.
It’s bad news for whales. Japan has resumed commercial whaling, bringing back to port the country’s first official catch since it withdrew from the International Whaling Commission, a global organization committed to the conservation of whales. But Japan isn’t the only country still hunting whales, in spite of a 1986 ban on the practice. Norway and Iceland hunt whales too.
Whales roam throughout all of the world’s oceans, communicating with complex and mysterious sounds. Their sheer size amazes us: the blue whale can reach lengths of more than 100 feet and weigh up to 200 tons—as much as 33 elephants. Despite living in the water, whales breathe air. A thick layer of fat called blubber insulates them from cold ocean waters. And like humans, they are warm-blooded mammals who nurse their young. We know that they feel pain just like us too.