(PARIS) — The dolphins’ bodies were horribly mutilated, the fins cut off.

But what shocked French marine researchers wasn’t just the brutality of the deaths of these highly intelligent mammals, but the numbers involved — a record 1,100 have landed on France’s Atlantic coast beaches since January.

The mass deaths, widely blamed on industrial fishing, have alarmed animal welfare groups and prompted France’s ecology minister to launch a national plan to protect them.

“There’s never been a number this high,” said Willy Daubin, a member of La Rochelle University’s National Center for Scientific Research. “Already in three months, we have beaten last year’s record, which was up from 2017 and even that was the highest in 40 years.”

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