LIMA – Only a few “bad individuals” are involved in the slaughter of dolphins documented by an environmental group that alleged that up to 15,000 of the marine mammals are being killed for their meat each year in Peru, Deputy Fishing Minister Paul Phumpiu said.
The government plans to take measures to deal the killing of dolphins, a practice that is illegal in Peru, Phumpiu said.
All small-scale fishermen cannot be accused of slaughtering dolphins, the deputy fishing minister said in a press conference on Wednesday.
The Mundo Azul environmental group said earlier this week that fishermen may be slaughtering up to 15,000 dolphins annually in Peru’s waters, using the marine mammals’ fat and meat as bait for sharks, whose fins are prized in Asia.
“Between 5,000 and 15,000 (dolphins are killed for bait) ... We have to add to them about 1,000 or 2,000 dolphins that are used for illegal meat consumption. The same fleet that uses them as bait also supplies the illegal (meat) market,” Mundo Azul executive director Stefan Austermuhle told Efe.
Officials have opened an investigation to identify the fishermen shown killing dolphins in the video released by the environmental group, Phumpiu said.
Mundo Azul has been asked to provide the government with “the information about the registration number of those fishermen because this is an illegal activity that must be punished,” the deputy fishing minister said.
“There are a few bad individuals who commit these crimes,” but the majority of fishermen follow the rules, Phumpiu said.
The Environment Ministry said Wednesday it formed a working group to investigate the allegations of illegal dolphin and shark fishing in Peru’s waters.
The video “enters into the evidence information that was not available before,” Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said, adding that the environmental group exposed “the level of cruelty” of the fishermen targeting dolphins.
A video shot by Mundo Azul and provided to Efe shows the cruel treatment dolphins are subjected to by fishermen, who operate without fear of a crackdown by authorities even though the marine mammals have been a protected species since 1996 in Peru.
Peruvian law bans dolphin fishing, as well as the processing and sale of meat or parts from the marine mammals.
The video shows fishermen harpooning a dolphin and hauling it aboard their boat while the animal flaps around.
The dolphin is beaten repeatedly with a club, cut and left to bleed to death.
Fishermen butcher the dolphin, separating the meat, fat and internal organs in containers, and later tossing what is left of the animal into the sea.
Mundo Azul members posing as documentary filmmakers sailed with the fishermen in May and September, spending 24 days at sea on the second voyage, Austermuhle said.
Fishermen told the environmentalists that blue sharks are attracted to dolphin meat, which is added to bait composed of fish and mollusks, Austermuhle said.