Killing dolphins has been banned in Peru since 1997, but interviews with fishermen and secret video footage taken by undercover activists on shark-fishing boats reveals that fishermen aren’t just illegally killing dolphins. Activists from Peru and other countries say they have discovered that fishermen are catching dolphins and then using them as bait for sharks.
Three organizations, the Peruvian NGO Mundo Azul, the American NGO Blue Voice and the U.K.-based Ecostorm conducted a month-long investigation of Peruvian long-line shark-fishing fleets. Based on the size of the boats and speaking to Peruvian fishermen, activists estimate that some 15,000 dolphins are being brutally killed in order to lure sharks. Some of the slaughtered dolphins are also butchered and their meat sold for human consumption.
Mundo Azul‘s executive director, Stefan Austermuhle, spent 24 days on an unnamed shark-fishing boat off the Peruvian coast; Mundo Azul had also undertaken an earlier expedition in collaboration with Ecostorm to investigate shark fishing boats. Video footage (some of which can be seen via The Guardian and is as awful as anything recorded about the dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan) and photographs that Austermuhle took show dolphins being harpooned and clubbed to death. As Austermuhle says,
“We videotaped from the boat and in the water and what we saw was unimaginably horrific. I just went numb looking at the pitiful dolphin being battered with a club. All I could do was continue recording the event in the hope that making the world aware of this tragedy can somehow bring an end to it.”
After they are killed, the dolphins are butchered and their meat “mixed with fish bait before being skewered onto hooks,” Ecowatch details.
Captured mako sharks (which is listed as a migratory species threatened with extinction by the Convention on Migratory Species) are cut behind their heads to sever their spines, as they are dangerous when hoisted onto a ship. Ecowatch says that this happens while the sharks are still “fully conscious.” Fishermen also shear off the snouts (the rostrum) of blue sharks in a process that can take as long as an hour, according to Austermuhle.
Pregnant sharks who are caught alive are still killed, rather than being returned to sea so that the species can survive. They are actually cut open, resulting in “live baby sharks spilling out onto the deck.”
Since Peru has a law in place banning the hunting of dolphins, it is imperative that the government actually enforce it. Even though doing so is difficult on the high seas, authorities including the police must oversee the selling of dolphin meat on shore. To make the dolphins easier to catch, fishermen pour pesticides and other toxic chemicals into the water, according to a report issued by Blue Voice earlier this year; they do not seem to realize that doing so contaminates dolphin meat and makes it dangerous for human consumption.
Peru most impose far more stringent regulations on the selling of dolphin as well as shark meat, and must strictly enforce its ban on dolphin killing, or risk the loss of dolphins in the waters of the Pacific permanently.
Photo from Thinkstock
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