Asia’s Taste for Shark Fin Is Killing Dolphins in South America

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Oct. 22 2013 4:50 PM

Asia’s Taste for Shark Fin Is Killing Dolphins in South America

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A blue-white dolphin with a baby swims in the Mediterranean sea on August 23, 2012 off the coasts of Nice, southeastern France.

Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP/GettyImages

The demand for shark fins as a pricey delicacy in China and other Asian countries has been devastating enough for shark populations, but a new investigation in Peru reveals that it’s been devastating for dolphins as well.

At least 15,000 dolphins are killed off the coast of Peru each year by fisherman who use them as shark bait, according to  watchdog group Asociacion Mundo Azul after a months-long investigation.

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Killing of dolphins was outlawed by Peru's legislature in 1997, but Stefan Austermuhle, executive director of Blue World, said fishermen have continued to target the mammals, which they harpoon, for bait.[…]
"The fishermen even buy harpoons known as 'dolphin killers,'" he said. "This happens in front of the entire world and no one does anything."

The good news for the dolphins is that it appears the consumption of shark fin soup, popular at weddings and other banquets, is slowly getting less popular in China, falling more than 50 percent over the last two years according to some estimates. Still, more than 70 million sharks were killed last year to feed Chinese demand.   

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. Follow him on Twitter.