Revealed: horror of Peru’s secret dolphin hunt

In a major investigation released today undercover reporters from Ecostorm and The Ecologist Film Unit expose the brutal hunting and killing of dolphins for use as shark bait off Peru’s Pacific coast. Experts interviewed as part of the investigation claim it is the first time that the Peruvian dolphin hunt – by far the biggest such hunt in the world – has been documented.

Working undercover, the journalists spent a week onboard a shark fishing boat 100km out at sea, enduring rough seas, basic living conditions and a near-death shipwreck incident, in order to film the hunt.

The investigation shows the fishing crew sharpening a large steel harpoon before pursuing – and eventually spearing – a dolphin, whilst bow riding in front of the vessel. The dolphin can be seen struggling on a rope before being hauled aboard and skinned. Sliced into fine pieces, the bloody dolphin meat is then mixed with fish bait before being skewered onto hooks for catching sharks, which are sought for their meat and fins.

Jim Wickens, who undertook the investigation, said: “Despite the incredibly challenging conditions we had to go through to tell this story, the footage we obtained casts a damning spotlight on this illegal practice where dolphins are killed for use as shark bait. With hundreds of boats operating in this way every day in the Pacific, the death count for the this threatened species of dolphin is truly staggering.”

Though illegal under Peruvian law, the practice of hunting dolphins, claim fishermen and campaigners, is an increasingly common practice. It has been estimated that as many as 500 boats are involved in shark fishing in Peru, with as many as 10,000 dolphins believed to be killed to be used as bait.

Hardy Jones from conservation chartity Blue Voice said: “The killing of dolphins for shaark bait in Peru is a travesty and must be stopped by the Peruvian government. What remains to be seen is whether Peru will enforce its own laws and comply with international norms.”

The investigation also reveals the cruel practice of sharks being killed by having their heads sliced off whilst fully conscious, and then pregnant blue sharks being sliced open and live baby sharks spilling out onto the deck.

A feature length piece documenting the extroadinary investigation can be exclusively viewed here