Friday, January 27, 2012
Humans' Taste for Dolphins, Manatees On Rise by Jennifer Welsh
Fillet of dolphin? Polar bear steak? As world population increases, people in coastal poverty-stricken areas are turning to the ocean for their meals, consuming marine mammals such as dolphins and seals, new research suggests.
Since 1990, at least 87 species of marine mammals — including dolphins, porpoises and manatees — have been served up in 114 countries. They are the victims of hunting and even commercial fishing operations, where they are sometimes caught accidentally, the researchers said.
The fishing of larger marine mammals, like humpback whales, is strictly regulated and monitored; but the extent to which these smaller warm-blooded marine species, including dolphins and seals, are caught, killed and eaten has been largely unstudied and unmonitored.
"International regulatory bodies exist to gauge the status of whale populations and regulate the hunting of these giants," study researcher Martin Robards, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement. "These species, however, represent only a fraction of the world's diversity of marine mammals, many of which are being accidentally netted, trapped, and — in some instances — directly hunted without any means of tracking as to whether these off-takes are sustainable."
Porpoise and narwhal on the menu To get a clearer picture of the problem, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Okapi Wildlife Associates examined records on small fisheries focused on small whales (like pilot whales), dolphins and porpoises from 1975 and records of global marine mammal catches between 1966 and 1975.
From there, the researchers consulted about 900 other sources, including reports and discussions with numerous researchers and environmental managers; the exhaustive investigation took three years to complete.