PARIS, France: Amidst the mass deaths of dolphins and porpoises in recent years, France's highest administrative body has ordered the government to better protect endangered whales, dolphins and porpoises, in an industrial fishing hub in the Atlantic Ocean.
The move was welcomed by conservationists, who have ben working to prevent some species in the zone from becoming extinct.
France's council of state gave government officials six months "to close areas of fishing in the Bay of Biscay for appropriate periods, in order to limit the number of deaths of common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and harbor porpoises that are victims of accidental capture during fishing."
It also required them to compile a reliable estimate of the annual number of accidental catches.
According to government-affiliated scientists, some 10,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed every year in that maritime zone in western France, with one recent year recording 18,000 deaths. The fishing industry is widely blamed for the deaths.
It was noted that some species are now in a state of "unfavorable conservation," with the common dolphin and harbor porpoise in "serious danger of extinction" in the region.
"Of course, this move is a ray of hope for us, but it is bittersweet. So many dolphins are already dead, we see dead creatures washed up every day. I hope it is not too late. We have come so far. Even a few years ago in France, no one knew about these horrors," said Lamya Essemlali of Sea Shepherd France, as quoted by the Associated Press.
However, conservation groups stressed that dolphins in the fishing zone are already behaving in ways scientifically consistent with a dying population.