Damaged fishing nets are a sign of increased tensions between dolphins and fishermen off Northern Cyprus, as both parties compete for dwindling fish populations in the Mediterranean.
A new study by the University of Exeter has highlighted how overfishing in the Mediterranean has led to dolphins preying on the fish caught in fishing nets in northern Cyprus, due to dwindling fish numbers.
As a result, fishing nets suffer six times more damage when dolphins are around.
"This is probably driven by falling fish stocks, which also result in low catches—meaning more nets are needed and higher costs for fishers. Effective management of fish stocks is urgently needed to address the overexploitation that is causing this vicious cycle," said Robin Snape, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
He is the lead author of a paper published in the journal Human Ecology recently.
Because the fishing businesses in the area are small-scale, such damage to the nets translates into thousands—or even tens of thousands—of Euros every year.
Acoustic pingers have been used in a bid to deter the dolphins, but have proved to be ineffective. In some cases, the sounds might have inadvertently have produced the wrong result: "It seems that some dolphins may be actively seeking nets as a way to get food," said Snape.
According to the researchers, about ten dolphins are accidentally caught in the study area annually, but this is possibly an underestimation due to under-reporting by the fishermen and possible deaths due to dolphins ingesting plastic from the nets.