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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.

shark fin dolphin bait

shark fin dolphin bait

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 risk.

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 bait.

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 dolphins.

"The fishermen even buy harpoons known as 'dolphin killers,'" he said. "This happens in front of the entire world, and no one does anything."

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.

A 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.

The 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.

As 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 consequences.

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.

The 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.

Blue 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 www.bluevoice.org.

To learn more about the vital work of cetacean defenders such as Blue Voice and Mundo Azul.
http://www.bluevoice.org and http://mundoazul.org

And consider signing petitions to save dolphins.

http://swimmingfree.wordpress.com/
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/613/063/240/stop-using-dolphins-as-shark-bait-in-peru

You can stop this atrocity relatively fast - become vegan, and help others do the same!

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