Gibraltar Dolphins - Research & Protection
A Halt to Dolphin Mutilations
In 1994 the calls to Eric were mostly about dolphins: As regularly as once every two weeks a dead dolphin with its fin cut off would be found on the Western or Eastern shores of Gibraltar. In order to establish who was responsible, Eric started to collect data: The frequency, the location, and the injuries inflicted on the dolphins. Post-mortem markings on the dolphin suggested that the dolphins had been caught in fishing nets or lines. We knew that people from Gibraltar did not use nets, and locals did not lay down ling lines and leave them. Sadly we did not know the identity of the fishermen responsible.
The Power of the Media
Eric intended to go public, but did not receive support from GONHS at the time and thus founded the Helping Hand Trust. The press of Malaga and the UK were interested, and he also received support from a UK group which later became known as 'Dolphin & Whale Watch'. With the 'Daily Express' and the 'Sunday Express' becoming interested the dolphin alert became truly international: Journalists from the two British papers visited Gibraltar - with the papers being syndicate papers the news also got published in the USA and Australia, and the Helping Hand Trust could collect the first needed research money via selling the photo evidence of the mutilated dolphins to the press.
A Vessel to Uncover the Culprits
The Express started a fundraising campaign for the Helping Hand Trust: A vessel was needed to go out to sea and find out who was responsible for the dolphin mutilations. Much was raised by the readers, the rest was funded by the Foreign Commonwealth Office: The then Governor of Gibraltar His Excellency Sir John Chapple was worried about the bad reputation Gibraltar might get with the bad media and set up negotiations with the Foreign Commonwealth Office to raise funds: As a result of his good office the Helping Hand Trust finally purchased a second-hand 31 foot Mitchell GRP hull vessel from Newhaven, which arrived in Gibraltar on 20 December 1994 on board HMS Illustrious. Tristram Louis, a friend of Eric in the UK, helped in locating the right kind of vessel needed for the task at hand, and also carried out sea trials as well as arranging an adequate purchase price. The Helping Hand Trust financed a trailer for the vessel with the name 'Nimo', and the Royal Navy imported the vessel on board HMS Illustrious. Sir John Chapple as the then outgoing Governor of Gibraltar and His Excellency Sir Hugo White being the new incoming Governor of Gibraltar imported the Nimo as a kind of hand luggage. The Helping Hand Trust is forever in their debt.
Equipped with a vessel, we could now locate the nets that were responsible for the death of the dolphins: Our charity made it known to fishing boats and their crews that our vessel was monitoring fishing activities in the bay and surrounding areas. We announced that we would record all activities with regard to dolphins and turtles, by taking photographs of the fishing boats and their crews and expose them to the media.
We could established that Spanish net and long line fishermen were responsible for these frequent death of dolphins, and the media published the findings. The public cried out internationally with Gibraltar, Spain and the UK in the forefront - until eventually the activity diminished. This does not mean that this activity has stopped - far from it - mutilated animals still appear on the shore line, though small in numbers. Monitoring of the fishing activities still continues, it has not diminished, nor will it.
Pictures of dolphin mutilations and of other animals which died due to human activities can be found here: Protecting Wildlife - We would like to warn you that the images are very disturbing.
Monitoring the Dolphins in the Bay
While patrolling to prevent mutilations of dolphins, we could not help but to get to know the dolphins better. We soon recognised dolphins, got to know more about their habitat and behaviour. We talked with international experts such as Mark Carwardine - and most importantly - we started to monitor the dolphins daily for our own research. Meanwhile we have compiled an extensive database on activities in the area - and of course it is still continuing to grow. Some of our research on dolphins has featured at conferences or in research papers and all of it is available for scholars researching with our charity.