An undercover investigation has discovered thousands of dolphins are being killed off the Peruvian coast and used as shark bait. The practice of killing dolphins has been illegal since 1996 in Peru, but these mandates are seldom enforced, note several media reports.
Animal conservation groups took notice of these unlawful killings that continued to occur, despite laws designed to protect dolphins, and funded an investigation.
The groups captured the illegal killings by actually getting informants onto the vessel, who spent about a week on the boat to get an up close view of what is happening. According to CNN, the London-based Ecologist Film Unit captured on video what happens during a dolphin hunt on film and the findings were subsequently made public.
Reportedly, the boat's crew knew the boat's guests were journalists and allowed them to come temporarily aboard in exchange for fuel money and anonymity. However, the fishermen reportedly did not know the entire scope of the story that was about to be shared with the world.
How illegal dolphin kills are occurring
In graphic words that describe a horrific bloody practice, a fishing boat sails through rough waters to get close to the dolphins and brutally sticks harpoons through the mammals' bodies.
Next, the dolphins are hauled onto the vessel and the kill is completed, if the mammals aren't already dead after being harpooned. Then the dolphins are skinned and cut up into small pieces, with the skin used for shark bait. The dolphin is reportedly sometimes still alive when it is skinned. It is alleged the fishermen will also use a club and beat a dolphin until it dies.
Mundo Azul, one of the conservation groups involved in the investigation, states on its website that over 15,000 dolphins are killed in just Peru.
"I just went numb looking at the pitiful dolphin being battered with a club," Stefan Austermühle, the president of Mundo Azul and an undercover reporter himself, said in an interview with Blue Voice, the organization paying for the investigation. "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."
What happens now?
Hunting sharks is a profitable venture for fishermen, and, as a result, it not only leads to the overfishing of sharks, but also a decline in the dolphin population.
At this time, conservation groups are steadily gaining support, having also generated a petition that has been signed by 33 international conservation organizations, reported National Geographic. This petition will be sent to the Peruvian government urging action to enforce the laws designed to prohibit the dolphin killings.
The government in the South American country has said it will investigate the dolphin slaughters and have a report ready by June of next year, reported the Los Angeles Times. Dolphin advocates also say the problem of overfishing for sharks also needs addressing. The government in Peru is possibly considering banning fishing for sharks as a way to address the dolphin issue.
"We're evaluating and if we find out that this is a widespread practice and the fishing of one species is affecting another, then we're going to take drastic measures. That means using tools at our disposal including banning the fishing of certain species as well as the sale of others," Paul Phumpiu, the Peruvian vice minister of fishing, said, according to CNN.
A widespread issue
While an ongoing problem in Peru, the killing of dolphins is not specific to just this country. There are several other countries where ocean mammals are targeted for kills.
For instance, in Taiji, Japan, dolphins are regularly killed; a situation that has become internationally known. These dolphin kills have raised the attention of many groups and individuals standing up to speak out against these practices. In these dolphin hunts, the mammal is not used for shark bait, but is hunted for human consumption. Some of the captured dolphins are sold to marine parks.