French Fishermen Found Eating Dolphins off the coast of Cornwall. 

Dolphins off the Coast of Cornwall

Marine experts have accused French fishermen of eating "large fillets" cut from the bodies of dolphins illegally caught in nets off the coast of Cornwall.

Conservationists claim the gruesome practice is common off the South West, where concern is growing over the large number of dolphins and porpoises caught in fishing nets.

According to the report in the Telegraph, this year alone has already seen Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Marine Strandings Network record 50 dolphin deaths, with 23 showing evidence of dying in fishing equipment.

One dolphin found on Mousehole beach last month appeared to show marks from being caught in a mesh, mid-water trawl net.

A Cornwall Wildlife Trust spokesman told the paper: " A large fillet of flesh had been removed from the back - presumably for eating.

"This is a known practice on French boats and French pair trawlers were working close to the south coast at the time.

"The dolphin's tail had been cut off in the course of cutting the animal free from a winch strop which was used to lift it over the side of the boat.

"Local people were very upset to see what had been done to this beautiful animal and to hear that this was just one of many."

Researcher Nick Tregenza explained that UK fishery regulations prevent British mid-water trawlers from coming within the 12-mile limit of the shore, but French boats can come in closer.

Research by the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrew's University is working on finding an "acoustic deterrent" to keep the animals away from the nets.

Nick said: "In the present situation we believe that EU mid-water trawlers should be subject to video monitoring to assess the size of the bycatch offshore of these animals that are so highly valued by people here and across the world."

Using acoustic pingers, he says, would help bring back the sight of porpoises swimming close to the shore, something locals, tourists and conservationists would love to see.

But, currently, accidental deaths from fisheries could be "doubling their natural death rate".