Wädenswil, 20 July 2017. By the end of June, Swiss marine conservation organisation OceanCare published a short video on shark and dolphin hunting in Peru on YouTube. Since then, more than 200,000 people watched this video. In addition to many viewers from Switzerland, the video earned a lot of attention particularly in affected countries in Latin America. More than 120,000 times the video has been accessed from Peru, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.
Dolphins and other small cetaceans are strictly protected in Peru since 1997. However, local fishermen keep harpooning mainly dusky dolphins far off the coastline to use their flesh as shark bait. Despite being illegal, this is hardly ever punished by the authorities. Shark fisheries, too, conflict with the country’s laws, as 95% of caught sharks are juvenile animals. This is bringing the populations to the brink of extinction. Up to now, this huge animal welfare and species conservation issue has been largely unknown to the public.
The recently published short video contains footage of an undercover investigation by biologist and environmental activist Stefan Austermühle, who is active against the cruel hunt as the president of Peruvian environmental NGO Mundo Azul. Austermühle made his undercover investigation in 2013 on board of a shark fishing boat in order to document this illegal practice and to make the public aware of it. And, in close cooperation with OceanCare, he now succeeded.
The wide reach of the YouTube video shows that the global public is finally becoming aware of this problem – and this is a major driving force for any conservation efforts. “We hope that this will mark a turning point. The video is to stir up the public in Peru and globally, and to make the Peruvian government act. Public pressure is necessary to push our calls both in Peru and on a global scale. Therefore it’s particularly important that the video has been frequently viewed and shared within the concerned region”, says Fabienne McLellan, project leader with OceanCare.
OceanCare is also working for a change directly at the local level. As of 2018, workshops and trainings will take place with local fishermen. This shall contribute to making the fishermen aware of ecological problems and show ways how to earn a living in a more ecologically friendly way.
OceanCare further calls on people around the globe to join a petition for effective shark protection. The organisation demands that international bodies and fisheries commissions cooperate in a coordinated way in order to ensure implementation of already adopted measures. For curtailing shark hunting and for stopping overfishing, we particularly need a global ban on finning as well as regional closed seasons. Further, decision makers shall define species-specific minimum sizes, and develop a way for deciding on catch quotas in a sustainable and scientifically sound manner. “Sharks are highly developed and perfectly adapted to their marine environment. Most sharks are viviparous and reach sexual maturity not until the age of 10 years or even later”, says Sigrid Lüber, president of OceanCare, and concludes: “Sharks need our help very urgently.”