Peru considers shark fishing curbs to stop dolphins' slaughter for bait

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 7:32am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 7:32am


Peru said it might restrict shark fishing to curb the illegal slaughter of up to 15,000 dolphins per year - used as bait by rogue fisherman - following a dramatic increase in sales of shark fins to Asia.

Most of Peru's shark fin exports, which have jumped 10 per cent in recent years, go to Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and other Asian nations, the Production Ministry said.

Video taken by NGO Mundo Azul broadcast on Thursday shows Peruvian fisherman harpooning dolphins before skinning and throwing their bloodied parts back into the ocean to lure sharks. The group said that 15,000 dolphins are slaughtered each year in Peru and their meat is used as bait to catch sharks.

"We videotaped from the boat and in the water and what we saw was unimaginably horrific,"said Stefan Austermuhle, executive director of Mundo Azul, who spent 24 days on a shark-fishing boat off the Peruvian coast.

"I just went numb looking at the pitiful dolphin being battered with a club. All I could do was continue recording the event, as well as the butchering of the sharks in the hope that making the world aware of this tragedy can somehow bring an end to it.

"The Peruvian fishermen endanger the survival of the dolphin species while pushing sharks towards a population collapse."

Although shark fin is authorised when regulated, some fishermen are engaging in "criminal activity" by fishing illegally, and must be punished, Fisheries Deputy Minister Paul Phompiu said. "We are outraged by this situation. Peru condemns the illegal fishing of dolphins and sharks because they are a protected species," he added.

More than 545 vessels are equipped to perform this type of fishing along the Peruvian coast, making at least half a dozen excursions a year and killing up to six dolphins each time, according to official estimates.

Only 72 shark fishing boats are currently registered with authorities, but there are no official figures on illegal boats.

Phompiu said that stopping the slaughter of dolphins requires going to the root of the problem and controlling the commercialisation of shark fins, which is considered a delicacy with aphrodisiac properties.