Dolphin Slaughter In Peru

Credit: BlueVoice.org

Via BlueVoice comes word of extensive dolphin slaughter in Peru that could easily exceed Taiji:

As many as 15,000 dolphins are killed yearly for use as shark bait and human consumption by Peruvian fishermen.

A BlueVoice/Mundo Azul expedition has returned with damning evidence of a massive hunt for dolphins carried out by Peruvian fishermen. This expedition follows an earlier expedition conducted by UK-based Ecostorm in collaboration with Mundo Azul.

BlueVoice provided full funding for the Mundo Azul expedition and partial funding for the Ecostorm effort.

Both expeditions brought back graphic video and photographic evidence of massive dolphin killing by Peruvian fishermen. Dolphins are harpooned, clubbed to death and then butchered to be used as shark bait. Dolphins are also killed for human consumption.

Based on the size of the Peruvian fleet and interviews with the fishermen Austermuhle estimates as many as fifteen thousand dolphins are killed for bait and human consumption by the Peruvian fishing fleet in this manner. An unknown additional number are killed in the driftnet fishery.

This fishery is doubly damning, because the dolphins are being killed so the fishermen can kill sharks, which are under enormous pressure as fishermen everywhere slaughter millions of sharks every year in an effort to feed the enormous demand for shark fin from Asia. And it shows that even in a globalized, wired world, there are corners that are engaged in slaughters that we know little about.

The Ecostorm report about the Peruvian dolphin/shark fishery can be found here, and the story of how Ecostorm got the video and photos can be found here.

Credit: Jim Wickens/Ecostorm/ITV News

Human populations scrapping for a subsistence living will always hunt and kill if that is a path to even small profits. So as sad as this news is, it is also a reminder that human poverty probably kills more animals (think elephant and rhino poaching, as well) than any other global phenomenon. And until we come to grips with that reality, there will always be profoundly cruel and wastefl slaughter.

Credit: BlueVoice.org

Shark Sanctuary

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most powerful. If you want to stop shark fishing and finning, don’t muck around with caps, fisheries management, and licenses. Address the problam directly and ban commercial fishing.

That’s the approach the Marshall islands took when they created the world’s largest shark sanctuary. Almost two million square kilometers of protected waters and reefs, WITH (and this is key, obviously) enforcement.

But there’s always a difference between the vision and the implementation. So it’s worth checking in on how the sanctuary is working out one year in. So the Pew Environment Group, which has been intimately involved in this effort, takes a look.

I’d love to believe things are going so well. And I love the fact that some people are now calling for a Pacific Ocean sanctuary. But I wonder what is happening with poaching. And “non-commercial” shark fishing. And commercial fishing of other species and bycatch. There is so much money in shark finning that there is always the danger that it will find a way to overcome, evade, or sneak through loopholes, in any sanctuary.

But those are challenges of implementation, and can be addressed with greater vigilance and funding. The essential point remains: sanctuaries are an immensely simple and powerful idea. And can do more to preserve and steward fish populations than any other approach.

Sharks Are The Modern Equivalent Of Bison

Anyone who is paying any attention at all knows that sharks are in trouble. But it is always helpful when science takes a hard run at establishing the facts. Here’s what a recent research effort at the University Of Hawaii came up with:

In an effort to answer the , the research team crunched data from 1607 surveys from the NOAA Coastal Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) to calculate the effect of human habitation on shark populations. The CRED team counted sharks throughout the Pacific using towed diver surveys, the most efficient and effective way to study open ocean creatures on a large spatial scale, and compared their counts with local human population numbers. Their results were clear – and sobering.

“Around each of the heavily populated areas we surveyed — in the main Hawaiian Islands, the Mariana Archipelago and American Samoa — reef shark numbers were greatly depressed,” said Marc Nadon, lead author of the study. “We estimate that less than 10% of the baseline numbers remain in these areas.”

That 90% reduction in shark populations has long been the consensus guess on what humanity, which loves to monetize and commercialize fears of what sharks can do to us, is actually doing to sharks. So it is not surprising so much as it is a depressing indication that that catastrophic 90% number might actually be correct.

At that level, it is an echo of a similar destruction of a population for commercial benefit: the slaughter of the American buffalo. The American buffalo, or bison, was once the most numerous species of large animal on earth–until mankind saw profits in the skins and meat, and systematically reduced the herds to near extinction.

A pile of bison skulls in the 1870s, waiting to be ground into fertilizer.

There is an echo also in the cruelty involved, with shark finning easily matching, and in my view surpassing, the practice of  stampeding buffalo over a cliff for calculated barbarity.

Shark fins drying.

There is one difference, though, between the human slaughter of sharks and the human slaughter of buffalo. The meat and skins of buffalo were arguably more vital to human existence than any product the shark slaughter provides. That is not to justify or excuse the slaughter of the buffalo. It is only to say that the destruction of shark populations for soup, crank cancer treatments and the pathetic hope for more sexual prowess (particularly given the importance of sharks to the overall oceanic ecosystem) is particularly senseless and a cosmic crime against the planet.

Double Depravity: Dolphins Die So Sharks Can Be Finned

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.

Sanctuaries Kinda Sorta Protect Sharks

Hammerhead (with fins)

But not really. At least that’s what we might conclude from what’s been going on at Colombia’s Malpelo wildlife sanctuary. According to this report:

Colombian environmental authorities have reported a huge shark massacre in the Malpelo wildlife sanctuary in Colombia‘s Pacific waters, where as many as 2,000 hammerhead, Galápagos and silky sharks may have been slaughtered for their fins.

Sandra Bessudo, the Colombian president’s top adviser on environmental issues, said a team of divers who were studying sharks in the region reported the mass killing in the waters surrounding the rock-island known as Malpelo, some 500 kilometres from the mainland.

“I received a report, which is really unbelievable, from one of the divers who came from Russia to observe the large concentrations of sharks in Malpelo. They saw a large number of fishing trawlers entering the zone illegally,” Bessudo said. The divers counted a total of 10 fishing boats, which all were flying the Costa Rican flag.

“When the divers dove, they started finding a large number of animals without their fins. They didn’t see any alive,” she said. One of the divers provided a video that shows the finless bodies of dead sharks on the ocean floor.

Calculating an average of 200 sharks per boat, “our estimates are that as many as 2,000 sharks may have been killed,” Bessudo said.

Seeing dead, finless sharks littering the ocean floor has got to be a sight that no diver will ever forget. Not very encouraging. But when shark fins go for an estimated $125 to $415 per kilogram, it is pretty inevitable.

Shark Holocaust In Pictures And Video

Shark finning is the most egregious example I know of the way in which human cultural preferences and profit-seeking can devastate the natural world. Some 73 million sharks a year are killed by fishermen who are after fins to put into…soup bowls. It is the modern equivalent of the way in which the North American buffalo was slaughtered to the edge of extinction in the 19th century.

The Pew Environment Group, which has been fighting shark finning with determination and energy, just published a series of photos, featuring Taiwan, to throw some light on the brutality and scale of the practice.

Ten months after releasing a landmark report revealing the planet’s top 20 shark-fishing catchers, the Pew Environment Group is expressing concern about new images and video taken in Taiwan that detail the expansive and unregulated nature of shark fishing globally. The depictions show fins and body parts of biologically vulnerable shark species, such as scalloped hammerhead and oceanic whitetip, being readied for market.

“These images present a snapshot of the immense scale of shark-fishing operations and show the devastation resulting from the lack of science-based management of sharks, “said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group. “Unfortunately, since there are no limits on the number of these animals that can be killed in the open ocean, this activity can continue unabated.”

The report by Pew and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, listed Taiwan as having the fourth-largest number of reported shark catches in the world after Indonesia, India, and Spain. Those four account for more than 35 percent of total global landings.

Here are a few of the photos (full slideshow can be found here):

Photo Credit: Shawn Heinrichs for the Pew Environment Group
Photo Credit: Shawn Heinrichs for the Pew Environment Group
Photo Credit: Shawn Heinrichs for the Pew Environment Group

And here is a video Pew produced:

Yes, it’s shocking and it would be nice if that would somehow translate into a global aversion to slicing up sharks for shark fin soup. Yes, there has been slow progress toward banning shark fin soup outside Asia. Yes, in response to these pictures Taiwan has announced it will ban the practice of shark finning next year (though it will allow shark fishermen to land sharks with fins, and slice ’em off ashore). Yes, Pew is calling for more action, all of which makes sense:

To address the overfishing of sharks, governments should immediately:

  • Establish shark sanctuaries, just as the Marshall IslandsPalau, the MaldivesHonduras, the Bahamas and Tokelau have done, where the animals are fully protected from exploitation.
  • End fishing of sharks for which science-based management plans are not in place or for those that are threatened or near threatened with extinction.
  • Devise and implement an effective national plan of action for the conservation and management of sharks.
  • Eliminate shark bycatch, the accidental catch of a species during targeted fishing for other species.

But the reality is that, as long as we subscribe to economic theories and a capitalist approach that prices goods according to the cost of production, but excludes external costs like the impact on the environment, most of human commerce will continue to trash the planet and its species. So rally for the sharks, but, more important, rally for the idea of pricing goods in way that includes the environmental costs, and raises prices to reduce demand to sustainable levels.

That is the revolution that would change everything.

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