Animal rights activists estimate that more than 100,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales are killed worldwide every year.
Much higher numbers are to be expected, but the dimensions cannot be estimated precisely, said Sandra Altherr, biologist and scientific director at the animal protection organization Pro Wildlife. "It's a black box." Pro Wildlife has worked with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) to develop a new analysis of dolphin catches.
Exploitation of dolphins and small whales is increasing
The report "Small Cetaceans - Even Bigger Problems" evaluates 250 studies and other sources. Accordingly, the situation for dolphins and small whales has become even worse in recent years. The hunting of the animals is driving some populations to the brink of extinction, animal protection organizations said. The exploitation of dolphins and small whales has continued to increase in recent years.
Dismembered dolphins for bait
The report gives various reasons for this: Firstly, dolphins replace the lack of fish as a meal in certain poorer regions. On the other hand, dolphins are increasingly used as fishing bait, especially in commercial fisheries. The dismembered carcasses are said to attract sharks and catfish. In the past, dolphins that were caught as bycatch in fishing nets were primarily used for this purpose.
“However, targeted hunting has increasingly developed for this practice in recent years,” said Nicola Hodgins, WDC dolphin expert. In some areas, the market value of dolphins as bait even exceeds their value as food. According to information, around 15,000 dolphins and small whales are killed in Peru every year, and almost 10,000 in Ghana.
Another reason for the increasing killing of dolphins is the overfishing of the world's oceans: fishermen kill the animals in order to eliminate supposed "competitors" for the dwindling fish stocks. “Given the overfished state of the seas, we fear that the killing of dolphins will even increase,” said Altherr.
Situation of river dolphins
According to the report, the situation of river dolphins in the Amazon region is particularly serious. "Every year thousands of these endangered animals are slaughtered unnoticed to serve as bait for pirate fishing," said Altherr. In addition, the oil from the animals, also known as botos, has recently been used to treat corona infections. “We run the risk of losing the Boto completely in the next few decades,” said Altherr.
In addition to Peru and Ghana, the list of countries with the most dolphins and small whales killed includes Nigeria, Brazil, Venezuela, Greenland and Taiwan, it said. In regions such as Indonesia, the Philippines and the Tristao Islands (Guinea), hunting and eating dolphins is a more recent practice.
Animal rights activists are urgently calling for global regulation of the hunting of dolphins and small whales. Coastal states are encouraged to strengthen and better enforce their national legislation. In addition, international agreements and programs must take urgent measures to end illegal hunting and regulate authorized hunting.