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Double Depravity: Dolphins Die So Sharks Can Be Finned

March 2, 2012

Sorry if you just had breakfast. Because this photo essay by Paul Hilton on the fishing practices he documented in Lombok, Indonesia is not easy on the stomach, or the human conscience. (Hilton recently won a World Press Photo award for a series on shark finning, and his work is well worth a look).

The basic story is that fishermen capture dolphins, use the meat to longline for sharks (to fin), and sell any surplus at local markets. It’s like a perfect storm of destruction. It’s the pictures, though, that really illustrate how sad this is.

Here’s Hilton, describing the scene:

In August of 2011, I headed to Indonesia to investigate. On the first morning I woke to the sounds of prayer at the local mosque, grabbed my camera and a notebook and headed down to Tanjung Luar, the largest fish market in Eastern Lombok. The smell was over powering. The crowd was a mix of tourists and locals.  I watched as the crew of two Indonesian longliners, tied up alongside each other, started dumping large fish over the sides into the shallow waters to be dragged into shore. I quickly made a list of species being offloaded. Scalloped hammerheads, thresher, mako, blue, silky, bull, tiger and oceanic white-tips sharks, manta and mobula rays, spinner dolphins and pilot whales. All coming off the same two boats, and not a tuna in sight.

The pictures, and the fact that this sort of fishing is going on–both killing highly intelligent mammals, and contributing to the destruction of shark species–can easily inspire outrage and condemnation (as it should). But it is important to remember the underlying cause of such a destructive practice is poverty. It may be easy to judge, or to assume that we wouldn’t make the same choices these fishermen are making, but many are subsistence fishermen simply trying to feed their families (though I have only scorn and antipathy for industrial shark finning operations that are all about corporate profit).

So anyone who really cares about ending human exploitation of dolphins and sharks (and other species) has to face this inconvenient truth: these practices (along with so many other destructive environmental practices) will not stop until the world gets serious about addressing global poverty. That’s not easy to do, but it is something that rarely gets acknowledged in policy and political debates.

Poverty and environmental destruction and cruelty are intimately linked. So if you want to oppose what you see here, it is incumbent on you to open your mind to what can be done about the underlying problem.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Janice permalink
    March 2, 2012 10:39 am

    OMG – so horrific. These people – karma is going to bite them hard … don’t be anywhere near them when it does. Just horrible.

  2. March 2, 2012 11:19 am

    This is as sad as anything I’ve ever seen. And to see the proud expression on these fishermens faces – so pathetic. Apparently education about the deplorable state of the seas is still a long way off the fishing shores of Indonesia.

  3. mnant permalink
    March 2, 2012 11:40 am

    it is so true what is said in the article, poverty is strictly linked to this market, but in other countries it is not, and eating dolphins and whales is considered a luxury meal. i think first example should come from those countries. they are wealthy they can certainly live well without dolphins and whales meat and they can easily support other forms of “economy” for the poorer. I think we should address our governments for enforcing laws on enviromental subjects. It easy to label people who are concern about the planet health as “activisits” . but it is easy as well to have a quick look of what is really happening to open your eyes. This is our wolrd, of our sons’ and daughters’, grandsons and so on

  4. Rooibos permalink
    March 4, 2012 6:15 am

    And then there are still idiots in the world who claim that human activity isn’t causing dramatic, noticeable climate change and mass extinctions. Who are we trying to fool as a species? Trying to ease our own consciences as we hide behind The Culture Card so we can continue to tell each other that this kind of behaviour is “my culture!” and that this excuses and justifies anything?

    Cruelty to other species and extermination is not a “cultural value,” and if it is, it should be STAMPED OUT – TODAY.

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