The C.A.S.H. Courier Newsletter
Fall-Winter 2013 Issue
Beyond Cruel: Dolphins Killed for Shark Bait
By E.M. Fay
Just when it seemed that humans' exploitation of
marine life could not get any more appalling - the wholesale slaughter of
whales and dolphins in Japan, Costa Ricans' theft of sea turtle eggs before
their horrified mothers' eyes, and almost every "edible" fish in the ocean
over-fished to near extinction - fishermen in Peru seem to have sunk to a
new low. Reports in mainstream media confirm that dolphins are being
harpooned and dragged on board fishing boats so that their bloody bodies can
be used to lure sharks to their own doom.
When we learned about this
dreadful treatment of a gentle species, well known to be among the most
intelligent living beings on earth, we called the Embassy of Peru in
Washington, DC, to ask what, if anything, the authorities are doing to stop
this horror. We were told that the Peruvian government has promised to
investigate the charges, brought by two non-governmental organizations, Blue
Voice and Mundo Azul, that the slaughter of dolphins in Perus's Pacific
waters has put the very survival of this beloved ocean mammal at serious
The brutal killing of thousands of dolphins was documented by Blue
Voice during two daring expeditions. Blue Voice and their
cetacean-defending partners Mundo Azul carried out an undercover
investigation for several months, embedding informants aboard Peruvian
fishing vessels. They found that at least 15,000 dolphins are being
killed per year off the Peruvian coast by fishermen using them as shark
Although Peru's legislature outlawed the killing of dolphins
in 1997, fishermen have continued to harpoon the marine mammals to use them
to attract sharks. Sharks have long been killed for their meat, as
well as their fins - shark fins being highly sought after, particularly in
Asian countries. The shark population is rapidly being depleted due to
the black market trade in their fins. Shark killing is not itself
illegal in Peru, but is supposed to be highly regulated. However,
policing this is not an easy task.
Regarding the dolphin killings,
Mundo Azul's President Stefan Austermuhle has said, "This ecological crime
is an open secret in Peruvian fishing." He noted that fishermen have
speared the dolphins swimming in schools as far as 50 miles from the
coastline. Austermuhle himself has filmed the harpooning of several
"The fishermen even buy harpoons known as 'dolphin killers,'"
he said. "This happens in front of the entire world, and no one does
Blue Voice and Mundo Azul have launched a worldwide campaign
to help end this horrendous ongoing crime against dolphins. They have
enlisted the aid of Peru's Ministry of the Environment in their quest.
consultant to the environment ministry, Sr. Gonzalo Llosa, stated that
evidence gathered by Mundo Azul has been forwarded to environmental police
to demonstrate "the level of cruelty that is going on, as well as total
impunity." He advocated educational programs on both local and regional
levels in Peru, and said, "We can attack this best as a social problem."
(L.A. Times, Oct. 20, 2013)
Whatever action is taken by the Peruvian
government needs to be swift and enforceable, if the dolphin population of
the region is to have any chance of survival. So far, as reported in the
Peruvian media (El Comercio, Oct. 23, 2013), a "multi-sectoral commission"
is being appointed to deal with the illegal dolphin hunting.
Minister of Environment will be leading the commission and coordinating
efforts with Blue Voice and Mundo Azul. Hardy Jones, Founder and
Executive Director of Blue Voice, and author of the new book, The Voice of
the Dolphins, is confident that the Minister for the Environment is
genuinely supportive of this joint project.
The first step taken
by the Multi-sectoral Commission of Environmental Management and Coastal
Marine Environment was to create a working group to address the illegal
hunting of both dolphins and sharks. They hope to institute a control
system and monitor fishing more effectively in future. However,
knowing the typical ways of governmental committees, we at C.A.S.H. are
concerned that this may be a slow process taking many months, during which
more precious dolphins will suffer a terrible fate.
deplorable as the treatment of dolphins is, there are wider-ranging problems
involved. By destroying much of the dolphin and shark populations off
their coast, Peruvian fishermen are endangering the whole regional coastal
food chain. Panamanian fishermen report that shrimp and lobster
populations have been eliminated because the absence of sharks has given
freer rein to octopus, who eat shellfish. In this as in other
instances, humans continue to show a lack of understanding that every time
they destroy the balance of nature in an eco-system there are serious
Taffy Williams of the NY Whale and Dolphin Action League, told us that,
unfortunately, dolphin killing for shark bait is not a new phenomenon.
It occurs in Indonesia and Vietnam, and in other parts of South America.
She said, "Peru's misdeeds have hit the world news, and that is the best
thing that could have happened. When press happens in these other
locations, not much attention is paid." (http://www.ny4whales.org)
What We Can Do
Even though the
government of Peru is now paying some attention to the grievous treatment of
dolphins in their territorial waters, it is essential that a public
spotlight be kept trained on this issue, otherwise it may languish.
discussions between the environment ministry and activists are a very
promising beginning to stopping the killing of dolphins. But decisive
action must be immediate. Every delay costs many lives.
Voice and Mundo Azul offer these practical suggestions in their October 2013
newsletter for anyone who wants to help save the thousands of dolphins who
are in constant danger:
1. Harpoons must be banned from all fishing
boats as their sole purpose is to kill dolphins.
2. Shutting down
illegal sales of dolphin meat on shore must be initiated and enforced long
term to destroy the market for this product.
3. Shark fishing must
be suspended in order to assess the stocks which are thought to be sorely
depleted. Stopping shark fishing is the best way to end the killing of
dolphins used as shark bait.
They conclude, “We have a unique
opportunity to save thousands of dolphins, but we must act forcefully and
now. Please help.”
Blue Voice is funding efforts to halt the dolphin
slaughter, but it is an expensive undertaking. Donations are much
needed and appreciated.
For information, go to
To learn more about the vital work of cetacean
defenders such as Blue Voice and Mundo Azul.
And consider signing petitions to save dolphins.
You can stop this atrocity relatively fast - become vegan, and help
others do the same!
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