Thousands of Dolphins Killed Annually as Bait for Fisheries

As if there weren’t enough reasons already to eat fish free, this horrifying investigation gives further reason to ditch seafood.

A man carries the body of a dolphin on a boat during a dolphin hunt in the Solomon Islands
Dolphin hunt in the Solomon Islands. Picture Credit: Ric O’ Barry’s Dolphin Project

A horrifying new report released this week by whale and dolphin charity, WDC, has found that up to 100,000 dolphins and small whales are being killed globally each year – with many illegally used as bait for fisheries. In Peru, up to 15,000 dolphins are slaughtered each year to be used as shark bait.

The report analysed over 300 scientific publications, local media reports, and eyewitness accounts to uncover the shocking findings, which reveal 56 species of cetaceans are hunted in over 40 countries – often illegally and by brutal methods such as harpooning or dynamite.

While Peru is the world’s largest culprit, other countries which kill more than 1,000 dolphins and small whales each year include Nigeria – which kills around 10,000 individuals for meat and as fishing bait – Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Japan, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The United States (Alaska), Colombia, Faroe Islands, Philippines and Vietnam are among the countries that kill several hundred cetaceans annually.

Although the largest number of dolphins and small whales are killed as bait in tuna and shark fishing, others are used for human consumption, traditional medicines, sexual gratification, currency, waterproofing, or because they are thought to eat declining sources of seafood.

In parts of West Africa and Asia – where unregulated fishing is rife – dolphins are increasingly used as a food source to meet the growing human population. This is despite the fact dolphin meat often contains high levels of contaminants such as mercury, and is deemed an unsafe food source.

The WDC says:

“We will take our report to the highest diplomatic and scientific powers, including the International Whaling Commission, the Convention on Migratory Species and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. We will undertake undercover investigations in some of these countries to expose the true scale of the issue and we will work within countries to help them understand the economic benefits of whale and dolphin watching.”

For more information about how to ditch fish from your diet – in turn minimising demand for dolphins to be used as bait for fisheries – check out our guide on the problems with fishing.

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