Dolphin Hunt Peru

Worst illegal dolphin hunt in the world

Every year up to 15,000 dolphins suffer an extremely painful death in Peruvian waters. Despite a ban on cetacean hunting, local fishermen continue to harpoon mainly dusky dolphins to use their flesh as shark bait. Together with Mundo Azul and other partner organisations, OceanCare wants to stop this brutal hunt. In 2018, a documentary on dolphin hunting in Peru will be released.

On their boats, the hunters wait in ambush for the dolphins. They rely on the curiosity of the animals unsuspectingly approaching the boat where the hunters wait to harpoon them at close range. When they hit a dolphin, they let the animal swim bleeding on the harpoon line. As soon as the dolphin is exhausted, it is pulled into the boat, beaten to death and then dismembered. The pieces of flesh are mainly used as shark bait, but a considerable amount of the dolphin meat is sold illegally on Peruvian markets for human consumption.

Brutal, illegal, and absurd

Peru banned dolphin hunting in 1997. However, it is an open secret among Peruvian fishermen that this ban is largely ignored. The sheer number of dolphins killed are higher than anywhere else in the world. According to a conservative estimate by Mundo Azul, about 15,000 dolphins are killed by shark hunters every year. Mundo Azul President and biologist Stefan Austermühle is fighting this intolerable situation in cooperation with OceanCare. In 2013, he filmed the brutal treatment of dolphins and sharks. What he witnessed at sea was beyond his worst expectations. As long as the Peruvian Government does not punish illegal killing of dolphins, the fishermen will continue to abuse marine mammals as cheap bait. Fresh fish – the preferred prey of sharks – is more expensive.

Twofold environmental crime

In a second heart-breaking massacre, tens of thousands of mako, blue and other sharks are brutally killed every year. Often, their faces are cut off while they are still alive. Shark populations in Peruvian coastal regions are already dramatically overfished. Today, about 95% of the shark catch are juveniles. In addition to immense animal suffering, the shark hunt causes massive species conservation problems and is thus a twofold environmental crime.

Dolphins and sharks urgently need protection in Peru

OceanCare, Mundo Azul and partner organisations are advocating stricter hunting laws that are rigorously enforced in Peru. These organisations call for prison sentences to be effectively enforced, and for a ban on owning harpoons. Dolphins have a chance to escape the shark hunters if they don’t have harpoons. OceanCare and 33 partner organisations presented these and further demands to President Ollanta Humala in 2013. In 2015 OceanCare stepped up the public pressure on the Peruvian Government, amongst others, by calling on people to send protest postcards to the Peruvian embassy. OceanCare together with other international wildlife and species conservation organisations also launched an online protest addressed to the president of Peru.

OceanCare’s work towards these goals also takes place within all relevant international fora: In 2015, targeting both Peruvian officials worldwide and relevant fisheries and species conservation conventions, we campaigned for enforcement of the existing hunting ban, and for a ban on harpoons in Peru.

In 2016, the Peruvian Public Prosecutor’s Department brought in prosecutions against the three fishermen who were filmed by Stefan Austermühle in 2013 when they killed dolphins. They had to stand trial in August 2016. Stefan Austermühle was among the witnesses. The ongoing first trial ever is a strong signal that fishermen are facing severe consequences if they hunt dolphins.

Also, in late 2016, the Peruvian government issued a decree banning those harpoons that are used for killing dolphins. Mundo Azul, OceanCare and Blue Voice had been advocating such a ban for three years. The next necessary steps are translating this ban into hard law, imposing control measures at ports, and determining the range of penalties for violations of the harpoon ban. OceanCare addressed these calls to Peru’s president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski along with a plea to protect the sharks.

Mundo Azul has already documented what fishermen do to dolphins and sharks at sea. On land, the organisation has also identified traders illegally selling dolphin meat for human consumption and compiled further evidence of shark fin trade.

Documentary as a turning point

The courageous undercover research by Stefan Austermühle in 2013 yielded extensive footage that will, together with additional shoots, be made into a documentary in 2017 in order to raise consciousness in Peru and in the public worldwide, and finally to make the Peruvian Government act.

A peaceful relationship to marine mammals can certainly not be brought about by pressure alone. In the long run, OceanCare and Mundo Azul want to win the fishermen’s support for dolphin protection and sustainable fisheries. Continuing to raise awareness will yield a change in attitudes. There can only be change if it is supported by the people.

Raise your voice for the dolphins in Peru

The Government of Peru has to act. Voice your protest to the Peruvian Embassy in Berne, Switzerland. OceanCare will distribute protest postcards until the dolphins are safe from hunters. Order your postcards now at +41 44 780 66 88 or info@oceancare.org