Why Are We Killing 100k+ Dolphins and Whales a Year? It Has to Stop
A report released earlier this month has revealed that over one hundred thousand dolphins and whales are killed each year to be used as food or bait. The practice of killing cetaceans, a species group that includes dolphins, porpoises, and many smaller whales such as orcas and humpback whales is much more widespread than many know, and most of the time, it is illegally done.
The new study, sponsored by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation), and a German charity called Pro Wildlife, is called “Small Cetaceans, Big Problems”, and focuses on the practices of killing dolphins and whales for bait as well as the effects that this illegal hunting has upon remaining populations.
An Illegal Practice
In 1946, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was first signed, instituting catch limits and other laws regarding the hunting and killing of whales and dolphins, with speculations for aboriginal groups, commercial whaling, and special permit whaling. In 1986, concerns over cetacean population led to a moratorium on whaling in general, with only certain permits granted for aboriginal subsistence whaling. In short, it’s incredibly difficult for the average person to be able to legally kill a dolphin or whale, and even those who have permits are limited by a long list of regulations.
But despite the widespread rules in place, not all countries are on board, and even in countries that signed the convention agreement, enforcement of these laws is incredibly lax, which has allowed a black market of sorts to run unhindered. According to the study, methods of hunting are often not quick or humane, with many sources and eye witnesses reporting that harpoons, machetes, and even dynamite were used to kill dolphins and whales.
Discoveries of the new study
“Small Cetaceans, Big Problems” identifies some of the biggest perpetrators of illegal dolphin hunting, the inhumane ways of doing so, and the countries where this is most common.
In the past two decades, hunting cetaceans for human consumption has decreased, but unfortunately the practice of killing these animals for other purposes, including bait, has risen dramatically. In Peru alone, where hunting dolphins has been illegal since the mid-1990s, fishermen kill approximately 15,000 dolphins every year to use as shark bait. This figure makes Peru one of the deadliest places for whales and dolphins in the world, above even places like Japan and the Danish Faroe Islands, which people usually associate with whaling due to media like 2009 documentary The Cove, or Denmark’s annual dolphin and whale slaughtering festival called Grindaráp.
The problem extends to more than just small cetaceans, too. Earlier this summer, an Icelandic fishing company faced major backlash after they were accused of slaughtering a blue whale, the largest mammal on Earth and an endangered species which is protected worldwide. The company, Hvalur HF, denied the accusations and claimed the whale was a large fin-blue whale, a hybrid species crossed with a fin whale, which is another endangered species the company also makes a habit of hunting. DNA tests proved this to be true, that the whale was indeed a rare hybrid, but the fact remains that butchering it and selling its meat was illegal. Experts have since argued that this case exemplifies just how difficult it is to regulate whaling and enforce laws around illegal hunting and fishing.
An Upcoming Commission
The recent report by the AWI comes at an opportune time, which is not by accident. This September, the International Whaling Commission will commune in Brazil to discuss conservation efforts of the world’s population of whales. Although the International Whaling Commission is committed to regulating whaling and illegal fishing around the world, and has funded conservation efforts regarding small cetaceans in the past, at the moment there are no officials laws or regulations regarding the hunting of dolphins, porpoises, and other small cetaceans. This is the subject of much division and hot debate within the IWC. Many members believe that small cetaceans deserve official protection under the IWC regulations, and maybe the new report is exactly what they need.
The AWI report has sparked anger and passion in many conservationists who are calling upon the commission to more strictly enforce whaling laws. The report will be discussed at the IWC Summit, and with a little luck, action can be taken to ensure the safety of these beautiful creatures.
For more information on how you can do your part to save whales and small cetaceans from illegal hunting, check out Greenpeace or follow the latest news at AWI’s website.