Eleven striped dolphins have been found dead with amputated flippers and tails and large gashes in their bellies on the coast of the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta.
Two of the striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) and the offspring of a long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) were found dead with signs of blows and amputations on the beaches of Chorrillo and Sarchal in Ceuta.
The other marine animals were found dead in the water with similar injuries before being fished out by the local authorities and volunteers of animal rights groups.
Juan Carlos Rivas, president of the Centre for Studies and Conservation of Marine Animals of Ceuta (Cecam) of Ceuta, told Real Press: “In just 24 hours we found eight dolphins with their tails cut off that were beaten to death.”
The marine animals were found on Sunday 18th April and the others were discovered the following day, including the long-finned pilot whale calf.
Rivas, who has reported the incident to the authorities, said: “The whole dolphin pod may have got trapped in drift netting, a practice banned in Spain, as they all had the same injuries, amputated tail, ripped belly, and signs of strong blows.”
He added: “These kinds of injuries are often intentional. If a dolphin is caught in the netting and is thrashing around, they can destroy it so fishermen use hooks to lift them out before beating them to death and cutting off their tails, or whatever part was trapped in the net, and throwing them in the sea.”
Rivas said that drift netting is banned in Spain and “the nets are around 1.5 kilometres long, left adrift in the water, and move with the waves like a mortal trap”.
He said: “It is not a net to catch fish, it is a wall in the water that catches everything it comes across.
“Whatever can be used for food is lifted onto boats while the rest is thrown in the sea, such as turtles, dolphins, etc.”
Rivas told Newsflash that he believes Moroccan fishermen may be responsible for the dolphin deaths as it is unlikely Spanish workers would have used the banned nets.
He added: “We have seen Moroccan boats with those nets on board before and they tend to sail from Tangier to the Spanish coast.”
According to Rivas, the Gibraltar Strait is the dolphin’s natural habitat and they are commonly seen in the waters and even approaching vessels.
As well as reporting the incident to the local authorities, Rivas said he plans to approach international organisation such as Greenpeace about the matter if nothing is done.