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Dolphins Chopped Up, Skinned Alive in Peru to Use as Shark Bait for Asian Delicacy

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First Posted: Oct 24, 2013 01:58 PM EDT
Dolphin killings in Peru
A new investigation reveals that at least 10,000 dolphins are killed off the coast of Peru each year by fisherman who use them as shark bait. (Photo : Photo: Flickr)

Animal conservation groups are enraged over the brutal slaughtering of thousands of dolphins off the coast of Peru, where the mammals are used as shark bait for an Asian delicacy known as shark fin soup.

Shark fin soup is a very expensive dish in China, among other Asian countries. The extravagant dish comes at a much higher cost -- not only on a humane and ethical level, but the price paid could be the disruption of our oceans' entire ecosystem.

Both the dolphin and shark populations have been devastated by the hunt, and a new investigation reveals that at least 10,000 dolphins are killed off the coast of Peru each year by fisherman who use them as shark bait, according to watchdog group Asociación Mundo Azul.

The London-based Ecologist Film Unit recently recorded one of the hunts in an undercover investigation and released its material, CNN reports. The disturbing video (watch below) shows the crew plunging a harpoon into the pod, and once captured, the carnage begins.

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"Bleeding profusely, the dolphin is hauled on board and almost immediately dies on the deck of the vessel. With his sharpened knife, a Peruvian fisherman then peels the skin off the dolphin's back and carefully cuts the severed body into thin slices."

While dolphin killings have been outlawed by Peru's legislature since 1996, Stefan Austermuhle, executive director of the animal conservation group Mundo Azul, says that fishermen continue to target the defenseless mammals.

Unfortunately, the law prohibiting the human consumption and sale of dolphin meat that was implemented on land is a different story at sea. Mundo Azul points out that there's been weak law enforcement and lack of awareness.

"In recent years, there's been an upsurge in the targeting of sharks. The shark meat is predominantly consumed within Peru, but the fins we're told are being exported to the Far East for use as shark fin soup," said Jim Wickens, an investigative journalist with the Ecologist Film Unit. He witnessed the gruesome scene, along with cameraman Alexander Reynoso, who recorded the harpooning of the dolphins.

The Peruvian government is investigating and claims that it will crack down on the problem.

"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," said Paul Phumpiu, Peru's vice minister of fishing.

If there is anything positive that comes out of this inhumane atrocity, it appears the consumption of shark fin soup, popular at weddings and high-end banquets, is slowly becoming less popular in China, falling more than 50 percent over the last two years, according to some estimates, Slate reports. Still, more than 70 million sharks were killed last year to feed Chinese demand.

Since the release of the unnerving video, Wickens has been contacted by experts in Southeast Asia who've told him this practice might also be taking place close to Indonesian waters as well, CNN adds.

How widespread is this problem?

Wickens said it's hard to know how many dolphins are being killed worldwide because it happens "out of sight and out of mind."

"It's a conservation car crash. One apex predator being taken out of the ecosystem, being chopped up and fed to catch another," he said. "Whichever way you look at it, it's bad news for the ocean."


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