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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Save Our Dolphins!

Photo from T&T Newsday Article, "Fish Not Biting"

I got the following message from a friend today (Thanks Tillah!), after reading an article about low fish harvests with a blurb (a side-note even!) that dolphins are being caught and their flesh (I can't bring myself to call it "meat") sold in the local markets.

I can't immediately vouch for the veracity of the writer's statement that slaughter of whales and dolphins is illegal in Trinidad and Tobago, nor can I find anything in a cursory search of the T&T Laws Online. But the mere idea of slaughtering Flipper to satisfy a sanctimonious need to consume seafood for Lent is enough for me to share this information and appeal as is.

Did anyone see the article in the Express and Newsday showing dolphins being sold for meat (and for lent too)? The fishermen are catching less and less fish and it seems that they are selling dolphins now - possibly as a by-catch (i.e. it accidentally was caught in the net while fishing) or opportunistically (i.e. they caught nothing much and seeing the dolphins around they caught them so that they could have something to sell when they got home).

Dolphin hunting is not the norm in Trinidad and Tobago but with the scarcity of fish and this new publicity indicating that dolphin may be a good substitute for fish for lent, may lead to an increase in hunting. I ask for your help to prevent this.

Please help to spread the following information:
  1. Dolphins are mammals NOT fish. This means that they are red meat which is inappropriate for lent.
  2. Dolphins have one baby every few years and they spend a lot of time and energy in bringing up their babies. This means that catching and killing these animals will cause greater and faster damage to dolphin populations than catching fish will to the fish population. A shorter period of hunting or even a lower catch rate will have terrible consequences for dolphin populations.
  3. Catching, killing, eating, possession of whale and dolphin parts is illegal in Trinidad and Tobago.
I also want to say that though it is easy to be angry with the fishermen we need to understand that they are only trying to make a living and in most cases do not know the damage they can cause by their actions. Their actions are as a result of other factors. We need to look at the possible routes of the problem. In this case this is the scarcity of fish and the fact that the public is not aware that this is illegal which leads to hunting and the willingness of people to buy dolphin meat. To address this we need to increase public awareness and promotion and support of the proper management of our fish resources.

Please help increase public awareness by sharing this information with others, it will be a great help.
Just to underscore, this practice is not to be tolerated. The flesh must be left with the sellers to rot.

If you can't get fresh fish for Lent, go vegetarian or open a tin of sardines or something.

UPDATE: The Institute of Marine Affairs has confirmed that the Conservation of Wild Life Act, Chapter 67:01 may be interpreted to consider dolphins to be "protected animals" under the law. Thus it is illegal to capture and slaughter them. [Link]

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