Horrific Animal Rights Abuse Reported From Taiwanese Fishing Vessels

dolphin shark bait title

Dolphins are regularly hunted and used as shark bait by some of Taiwan’s fishing crews (Photo: EJF/Facebook)

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has released an updated report into the cruel practice employed by Taiwanese fishing vessels of slaughtering dolphins to be used as bait for sharks.

The report addresses concerns previously raised in 2018 by an investigation into the Taiwanese fleet that included horrific human rights abuses on board the vessels, as well as barbaric cruelty to animals and illegal shark finning.

Crew members from four vessels informed the EJF about the practice of harpooning dolphins riding the bow waves of their vessels. Once speared, the animals were dragged alongside until either exhausted or dead. Dolphins still showing signs of life were electrocuted using a car battery, before being butchered and used as shark bait.

As many as 70 dolphins were intentionally killed on just one fishing vessel during a four-month trip in 2019, according to a member of one of the crews. Data gathered by the EJF shows that the official statistics ­– which state that only seven cetaceans were caught during the whole year across all 900 longline vessels – were grossly underreported.

The use of dolphin meat as bait by distant water fishing fleets is a hidden, but potentially very serious conservation threat. In the most recent case documented by the EJF, the crew showed investigators photographs of what appears to be an entire pod of short-beaked common dolphins slaughtered for the purpose of hunting sharks. The meat is particularly desirable as bait, the men told the EJF, because it ‘produces a lot of blood and stays on the hooks.’

dolphin shark bait

A photo from the EJF report shows the remains of a slaughtered dolphin in the hold of a Taiwanese fishing vessel (Photo: EJF)

During the past three years, the EJF has submitted evidence to the Taiwanese Fisheries Agency implicating twenty vessels in the illegal practice of catching cetaceans and other marine mammals. Further investigation by the EJF has found that the total number of boats involved has risen to 27. To date, no sanctions have been brought against any of the vessels’ owners.

‘These practices risk undermining the progress Taiwan made after its ‘yellow card’ warning from the European Union for illegal fishing,’ said  EJF spokesperson Dr Daisy Brickhill in an e-mail to DIVE. ‘They could also have implications for the export of seafood to the USA, since the US Marine Mammal Protection Act has strict standards to reduce marine mammal by-catch.’

The EJF is also asking the Taiwanese authorities to consider the installation of cameras and other electronic monitoring systems onboard fishing vessels, in order to prevent the illegal killing of dolphins, and also prevent illegal shark finning, where sharks have their fins removed alive before being thrown overboard and left to die. Crew members interviewed by the EJF reported catching and finning large numbers of sharks, including species considered to be endangered.

‘To crackdown on these practices, Taiwan must rapidly introduce electronic monitoring at sea,’ said Dr Brickhill. ‘Without cameras on board, it is very difficult for authorities to find evidence or impose sanctions for false reporting after the vessels have returned to port.’

The report estimates that the Taiwanese fishing fleet is comprised of more than 1,000 vessels, operating across three oceans and landing their catches at 32 different ports around the world – a fleet that must undoubtedly have a significant impact on already depleted global ocean ecosystems

‘Hunting dolphins in this way is not only cruel and wasteful, it removes key species that are central to the health of marine ecosystems,’ said Dr Brickhill. ‘Human rights abuse goes hand-in-hand with this illegal fishing, and Taiwan’s authorities must act urgently to enhance transparency and enforcement and put an end to both. Effective electronic monitoring, with cameras on vessels, especially those that are high risk of offending, is a crucial step.’

To find out more about the Environmental Justice Foundation, visit www.ejfoundation.org, or follow the group’s Facebook page. The full report into human and animal rights abuse among Taiwan’s fishing fleet can be found at this link.


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