Changing Planet

Dolphin Slaughter Fueled by Illegal Shark Trade

A harpooned dolphin bleeds on the deck of a fisherman’s boat off the coast of Peru. Photograph by Mundo Azul/BlueVoice.

Dolphins in Peru are having their lives cut short as fishermen take to the seas, illegally harpooning and killing the animals in order to harvest their skin for shark bait.

Sharks are a profitable commodity to fishermen, as their meat has long been considered an expensive delicacy in Asia, and now, a new report by the investigative group and conservation NGO Mundo Azul suggests that this shark meat demand is indirectly fueling another tragedy in our oceans: the slaughter of more than 15,000 dolphins each year in Peru alone.

Undercover reporters were embedded with the fishermen who kill the dolphins and recorded the graphic techniques they use: Fishermen track dolphin pods, and when they’re within shooting distance, they will aim a harpoon into the group and fire. Once they’ve hit their target, the fishermen will hoist the dolphin onto their boat and slice off the animals’ skin, sometimes while it is still alive. Other times, the animal is clubbed to death.

“I just went numb looking at the pitiful dolphin being battered with a club,” Stefan Austermühle, the president of Mundo Azul and an undercover reporter himself, said in an interview with Blue Voice, the organization that funded the mission. “All I could do was continue recording the event in the hope that making the world aware of this tragedy can somehow bring an end to it.”

Legal Status

While hunting dolphins is technically illegal in Peru, Austermühle calls it an “open secret” in the fishing industry, with little to no enforcement. The practice was outlawed in 1996, but it is rarely enforced, he said.

At its peak, nearly 20,000 dolphins were being killed in Peru each year, Mundo Azul estimates. Despite the threat of incarceration or seizure of their fishing licenses, fishermen continue to catch dolphins.

And the slaughter continues.

In other countries, where there are no specific laws to protect small cetaceans, including dolphins and porpoises, the killing is left entirely unchecked.

Perhaps the most well known occurrence of dolphin killing is in Taiji, Japan, the city made infamous by the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. In Taiji, dolphins are gathered and killed—not for shark bait, but for human consumption and for selling to marine parks.

Fishermen pull a small shark onto their boat deck
A shark is pulled on board a Peruvian fisherman’s boat after being baited with dolphin meat. Photograph by Mundo Azul/BlueVoice.

Peru is not alone in their use of dolphins as chum. Fishermen in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Tanzania have also been known to lure sharks with dolphin meat, claims Hardy Jones, the executive director for Blue Voice.

“Using dolphins as bait?” Jones asks incredulously. “That’s like using Albert Einstein as a traffic bump…It’s an extraordinary act of cruelty.”

But Jones doesn’t blame the fishermen. “I blame the government,” he says. “Now that they know, they have to act.”

Petition to End Slaughter

Blue Voice has already obtained signatures from 33 international NGOs and plans to send their proposal to the Peruvian government, letting them know that their behavior is “unacceptable.” Once they stop the overfishing of sharks, Jones believes, only then will the dolphin slaughter stop too. (See “100 Million Sharks Killed Every Year.”)

The Peruvian government vows to investigate the crimes and plans to deliver a report by June 2014, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Until then, what can you do to help? Stay informed. You can help spread the word, become a dolphin conservation volunteer, or sign Blue Voice’s petition to the Peruvian government to stop the slaughter.

Alexis Manning has worked for National Geographic Television and National Geographic News. She has a passion for travel, conservation, and photography.
  • Rob

    The human virus strikes again! Greed, arrogance and addiction to the self ride high in our world! Shame on us!!!

  • Mr. Burns

    And Peru is going to take over 6 months to report on the issue?

  • Laffie

    Disgusting! These 2 amazing animals being killed stupidity!

  • Sophia Horan

    Oh im crying right now…

  • Dan

    I do like the quote from Mr Jones about Einstein. Dolphins are definitely smarter than the cowardly fishermen. I will say this is extremely sick, and perverse to do this to such an intelligent and peaceful creature. There are documented cases of dolphins saving human lives. We really need to stop this, along with whaling in Japan.

  • John

    These fishermen are low life scum………enough said.

  • David

    One day the dolphins and other sea mammals will come ashore and hunt us with harpoons…

  • andri

    We must save the dolphin …

  • Juan Pablo Monge Sandoval

    The only factor out of the mother’s nature equation is: humans. Species disappeared and about to disappear because of our stupidity based on the fact that we feel as the top specie when it should not be that way!

  • seungbin kim


  • Diaa

    the one who gave them these laws is not a human .

  • Piero CJ

    Estoy muy apenado por lo que ocurre en mi país.
    Las autoridades de mi país están trabajando para que este abuso cese.
    Espero que este abuso contra los delfines acabe lo mas pronto posible.

  • Kerl

    that’s why being intellegent sometimes ruin life.. if there were no scientists, they will not find out that shark fins are good for human body. Mother Earth, have mercy on us!

  • Hans Guett

    Easy to say living in US, those men are very poor and maybe do not have oportunities to feed the family.. The worst is the one who buy the product… Why dont we, rich country, iinvest in a sustantable business for those men?

  • Rob

    If you want to truly solve these issues, put pressure on countries that allow these products to be imported or sold. You can buy shark fin soup all over Asia. Neither the people nor their government have done anything to stop it. Regardless of what they believe or in creating a trade based on legal harvesting, as long as there is such a demand there will be people like this willing to do what they must to get them and profit from them. What are we, as human beings willing to do to affect change? Would we take an economic hit to save one hundred million sharks a year by refusing goods from countries who allow a needless product such as fin soup to be sold? What is worthy of our compassion, our humanity?

  • washington villaseñor

    Esto es una masacre al sistema marino y no es justificable utilizar arpones para dar cacería a los delfines y así obtener carne de los tiburones, mas aun que la gente vea esto, como medio de supervivencia o negocio, recapaciten!…… por que estemos donde estemos o en el lugar donde residamos, no tenemos el derecho de dañar a la madre naturaleza.

  • pablo

    Gente como puede ser que hagan semejante barbaridad, no se puede creer que maten a un delfín. La verdad es que hay gente que no merece gozar de sus vidas con plenitud, debería de sufrir como lo hizo ese delfín antes de morir.

  • Adrian

    Just to be clear, sharks aren’t prized in Asia for their “meat” as it’s cheap and by far not a delicacy. It’s their ‘fins’ that Asians are interested in. Hence the practice of finning – cutting off the fins and throwing the shark back into the ocean to sink and drown or be eaten by others.

  • Sylvanah

    That is disgusting:(

  • Kelly

    You can also Stop vacationing there and scuba diving. Tell places that the reason you choose to not stay/dive with them is becuase of the dolphin slaughter and lack of government enforcement. Getting the non-fishing population involved will do more than petitions. Boycott Peru tourism.

  • Kelly

    “Kerl Said:that’s why being intellegent sometimes ruin life.. if there were no scientists, they will not find out that shark fins are good for human body. Mother Earth, have mercy on us!”

    Fool, there zero evidence Shark fins are “good for us.” Ignorance like that is the problem. It’s an idiot’s idea of medicine and has zero scientific foundation.

  • Majid

    I just can say shame on them at least the dolphin are well known as human friend’s for a while please don’t teach them to become our enemie.

  • Dominus Farib

    Enquanto os países não acordarem para acabar com estas injustiças e massacres inúteis perderemos muitas espécies
    O futuro terá apenas alguns exemplares de animais, e estes enjaulados!

  • Eduardo

    Peruvians are among the most selfish and unconsidered people I’ve ever met.

  • Mariella TIKARE

    c’est honteux de faire cela aux animaux sans défense

  • InHell

    actually we are ordering it in the US. Shark Fin Dumplings at Dim Sum Go Go – one of the best chinese restaurants in town:


  • Puskar

    India has banned the practice of finning sharks.
    The finless shark is often thrown off back into the water where it dies a slow and painful death.

  • Ivory Bill

    These animals are being slaughtered so another animal can be slaughtered and eaten just for the prestige of eating it. It’s ironic that dolphins have probably more nutritional value than sharks for human consumption (not that I’m condoning eating dolphins). I wish the countries in Asia would make more effort to stop killing these animals when the sole reason is prestige- sadly though, the more rare sharks become, the more prestige cultures will attribute to eating them, as with all animals whether hunted for ivory or for recreation.

  • Anna

    Human surmise and “Arctic Sunrise”: Is there no more GPI to focus its campaining declared on “overfishing”?

  • Herman L’Allemand

    how insane and dumb

  • Ivan Gamo

    That is the problem if you are from the third world country… you will do anything just to survive…

  • Susana

    This seems to be very inhuman and we can never agree but what if this is the only opportunity to feed their families? They think about today and not tomorrow. We have to instruct them, we have to teach about the ecosystem, the negative effects of overfishing and of course, the sustainability concept. If they hunt all animals today, there is nothing left tomorrow. We have to provide them with alternatives. AND, we should not forget: no demand = no supply!! Countries need to agree on that, stop overfishing of sharks and decrease their demand for such products.

  • Gabor K

    Hans Gutter: “Easy to say living in US, those men are very poor and maybe do not have oportunities to feed the family..”

    They are fisher mans! Why don’t they catch fish then and take it home tho their families? It’s simple greed for money, not about feeding families.

  • Gabor K

    Sorry, correction: Hans Guett

  • lik

    horrible killing poor animals and all complain of poor animals and the USA is killing people all over the world and nobody is not terribly surprising

  • Ravee

    Finaly they are going to kill each other for Flesh …

  • Olivia

    People are capable of human trafficking, ruthless murder.. where’s humanity you ask?… This thing has to stop. Using dolphins as a BAIT??? We are being predators of any animal living on earth just because we can. Animals are predators of a couple, or a single species because of HUNGER… That’s the huge difference.. I am disgused with human race. Where’s the government? You can always put a person to jail for recording a movie in the cinema, how about animal rights? What you see is an act of cruelty …

  • Naba

    Just like killing Dolphins in India everyday you can hear about killed Tigers, Rhinos and many more wild animal !!!!!
    Some species of animal are already facing extinction. If there won’t be any certain action about these illegal killing
    of wild animal, very soon we’ll see the last of them.

  • Steve Garan

    Perhaps there is a way we can curtail American tourism in Peru … Is there an Avenue we can pursue that will make American Tourists choose another destination for vacations? The Peruvian Government will take notice if Americans boycott travel to Peru !!! … (Boycott Peru … KILLING Dolphins means KILLING Tourism)

  • Rizah Murseli

    This is very sad! I think, the International Community mus punish the Peru Government for this Massacre.

  • luz bordon


  • luis semino mendez

    que lastima que al peru lo hayan puesto primero en esta cruel y salvaje episodio injustificable por haber otras alternativas de pesca de tiburon pero tambien estas practicas crueles se practican en nuestros paises vecinos ojala se tome cociencia de lo que ocurre y pare de una vez por todas acaben estas matanzas de un animal tan bello e inteligente

  • jj farrell

    As long as there are ignorant individuals purchasing products derived from cruel and unsustainable practices, such as ivory, shark products, rhino horn, wild cat parts etc. There will be equally ignorant people procuring them. The short sightedness of these practices will only come back to harm us all. Governments of countries which possess a high level of biodiversity, are often extremely poor and unconcerned about other creatures or the environment, until a natural disaster affects their ability to maintain control and or order. As long as there is money to be made, there will be people exploiting the environment. This will go on until our environment is so degraded, that the opportunity to exploit will no longer be available. Only then will the killing, ignorance and disregard end.

  • Justin

    This is so sad, so much dolphin meat wasted that could be fed to dogs.

  • Tomothy Shaw

    Political obedience to the law is regarded as rooted in the well-being of the soul; just as wrongdoing is not to be justified by the thought that one will escape discovery.

  • Tila

    Dolphins are being slaughter, they are really not to be killed but are to be preserved …………………. some action needs to be taken

  • Sami Zakaria

    If things continue like this eventually they won’t be dolphins for shark trade.

  • Haidar

    i’m from Indonesia
    im very sad to hear that indonesian fisherman is one of dolphin hunter

    in kiluan bay, Lampung, Indonesia “they” kill thousands dolphin, and they sell it to shark hunters from Japan and Thailand.

    they sell the dolphin at price Rp 100.000, equal to 10 dollars each dolphin

  • Valerie

    God will make them pay for the waste of those beautiful. Innocent creatures.

  • Julia

    human is the worst animal ever existing, stop multiplying!

  • madi

    wow,…. its small for issue ?

  • Steve

    Its so much bigger than sharks and dolphins or prestige. What about the blue fin tuna which we have hunted to the verge of extinction? When there were no longer enough left to be commercially profitable we moved on to yellow fin tuna and hunted them until there weren’t enough to hunt. Now what is it? Chilean sea bass which used to be considered a trash fish. What will be next? Carp?
    Come on canada! What about your annual harp seal slaughter? That’s even worse since those baby seals are so darn cute before you bludgeon them to death. Again its because of commercial fishing and demand for fish protein.
    So long as we have poverty and overpopulation this is all inevitable. Costa Rica is the biggest offender in the shark finning practice. Its illegal but like other laws that are not profitable to enforce the practice is largely ignored.
    The only answer is to reduce the human population. Nobody has the intestinal fortitude to do that (Except maybe Rwanda). So It is what it is. If it makes you feel better to complain about it and boycott tourism then by all means do so. God forbid that you choose not to reproduce and choose not to make more mouths to feed.
    Don’t worry. We will take care of the problem sooner or later through our own inability to control our greed and reproductive urges. Once we have changed the environment enough that we cannot live here, nature will fix itself in our absence.

  • marvelous_d

    these environmental degradation was fueled by the great demand in china where profit is the rule, nothing else matters. to stop this mad practices in that part of the world is first find those people who buy from these fishermen and and i bet you they are likely to be chinese buyers.



  • andre

    killing dolfins for bait
    disgusting sharks eat chicken heads surely more avilable and econmically viable

  • jesus teixeira

    acabem com esta corja de vez quem sabe localizar os tubarões e enviar estes responsáveis para junto deles depois de escalados

  • Domingos Nicala

    Esta história deixou-me muito comovido. Deus nos criou para amarmos a todas as criaturas e não de uma forma barbara.
    Essas pessoas que matam Golfinhos são mesmo assassinos em busca de dividendos da riqueza ilicita. Que pena!!!

  • Arne Johnsen

    Boycott Peru.

  • Kristina

    I think that is very sad on our Dolphins and sharks there’s enough food on land without this cruelty . I will not be going to pereu, the future and I will spread this. Cruelty around to friends. Very sad indeed,

  • pat

    kARMA…..someday these fisherman will get what’s coming to them. They will pay for this and have to acount for there cruelty to animals. It can,t be to soon……enough is enough.

  • Carl

    What do YOU wanna feed people there,

    Hot dog meat, horses, McDonnalds garbage? Or what?

  • tony bennett

    The Chinese are an ancient civilisation, stretching back centuries with scientific knowledge and advancement part of that. Isn’t it about time the Chinese government tackled head on (after all, they are fairly authoritarian right now) the mumbo jumbo of the customs from previous ages that are no longer sustainable? Shark fins, rhinoceros horns, parts of tigers etc . No, no, no you do not have the right to pursue these “customs” when they are no longer sustainable. If China was able to have a massive campaign regarding the number of children in a family, why not this? Just to show that I am not anti Chinese, the West also has no right to cut down rain forests for ranches to produce vast quantities of beef. It is not a human right to gorge on far more meat than our bodies are capable of processing.

  • Eva

    The people are so cruel…please stop them!

  • thelorax

    This is just as sad as the wasting of trees for a handful of gold as they wash the forests away to get something that will then be put in a whole in the ground.

  • tiao

    preocupem-se com lindos golfinhos enquanto os gringos assassinam crianças e seres humanos todo dia no iraque e outros paizes…

  • Paulo Santos

    É um absurdo o que está acontecendo na costa do Peru, se as autoridades não agirem logo, vamos ter notícias de milhares de Golfinhos mortos em 2014.
    Precisamos gritar para o mundo sobre esse caos.

  • michael ferrada

    We are just destroying Mother Nature!! Soon… we´ll be left on our own, and distined to eat the money, we have so greedly earned!! The Worl at it´s Worst!! ACT NOW!! BEFORE IT´S TOO LATE!! :(!!!

  • Ramon

    Do you realy want to do something, Please sign on:


  • William

    Just joined NG.Nice to be here! BUT!-Can someone please tell me why NG does not comment on the Warming Research ships being trapped in vast ice sheet,(in the summer)? I’m open minded but there is a silence from NG which puzzles me.Thanks in anticipation.

  • Irma Valdivia Clavelo

    Firmo a favor de Azul voz al gobierno peruano para detener la masacre de los Delfines. Petición para eliminar la masacre de los Delfines

  • Marli Vitale

    bah…. o ser humano não aprende mesmo…. só pensam em dinheiro…. e isso NÃO É TUDO…. a felicidade tá longe disso… e bem próximo de conviver mais e mais com a natureza e seus bichinhos indefesos. APELO – PAREM COM ISSO – tenham misericórdia.

  • Marli Vitale

    PAREM por misericórdia e compaixão!

  • Sarah Arnold

    Whoever killed my favorite animal,they’re next!!

  • Meg

    Tenho certeza que vão pagar por toda crueldade que estão fazendo !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Christine Breen

    Why do you want to do this to our world humans are destroying what was created for all to be shared instead humans have become selfish and cruel and take down everything that was to be a beautiful and peaceful place really people what do you live on land and all the cetaceans that are in the oceans well that is there home we have no right to do harm to them what have they honestly done to you all the people in the world

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