This year the team of Green Balkans NGO has carried out research activities of incidental catch of cetaceans in the Black Sea turbot fishing in Bulgarian waters. They are part of CeNoBS project and are continuation of the launched in 2019 pilot activities to introduce pingers as a mitigation measure in turbot fishery. The project aims to collect data on the scale of bycatch, to propose solutions and measures that could improve the existing situation. This year a total of 151.5 km of fishing nets were surveyed during two fishing campaigns in spring and summer. That is almost 50% more compared to last year when in total 101.92 km were monitored.

The data generally show a lower level of cetaceans’ bycatch this year compared to last year (104 porpoises and 1 Bottlenose dolphin) with the main affected species again being the Harbour porpoise with 42 individuals – 5 during the spring campaign and 37 during the summer. It is interesting that three Common dolphins were also found in the nets – 2 in spring and one in summer. While in spring it was very likely that both specimens were entangled post mortem the one in summer was most probably bycaught. One specimen of Bottlenose dolphin was also reported in spring. One pregnant porpoise was a striking finding among high number of females many of whom were nursing mothers. This means that orphaned calves have no chance of survival and subsequently die of starvation and neglect, thus becoming indirect victims of the bycatch.

In the course of the study, data and samples from the cetaceans bycaught were also collected in order to study their health status, feeding habits, sex structure, stomach contents, parasites, etc.

The entanglement of marine mammals in fishing nets is a huge problem worldwide, which has negative consequences both for the conservation of populations of these ecosystem-important species and for the livelihoods of fishing communities. Data from international studies show that more than 300,000 cetaceans become entangled and drown in fishing nets each year. For the Black Sea, data from past bycatch level studies show that this is one of the most significant human impacts, being the largest for the Harbour porpoises.