A recent study published in the journal Endangered Species Research estimates that for every 1,000 metric tons of tuna caught in the Indian Ocean, 175 cetaceans, mostly dolphins, are also caught.
The main culprit is gill-net fishing. Used to catch about a third of the tuna taken for human consumption from the Indian Ocean, gill nets are long, wide nets that hang in the water, forming an invisible wall that indiscriminately traps any animal too large to swim through, including dolphins, whales, sharks, and turtles. The unwanted animals, known as bycatch, are usually unreported and tossed aside.
Dr. Putu Mustika, co-author of the study, said:
It’s a painful death. Dolphins are clever, but because the net is very thin in the water, the dolphins’ sonar misses them.
The study estimates that around 4 million small cetaceans have ended up as bycatch since 1950, which has helped drastically reduce cetacean populations in the Indian Ocean—by more than 80 percent since 1950. Mustika explained that the number of cetaceans caught is likely much higher:
These estimates do not include cetaceans that were caught by gill net but discarded at sea, used as bait and not landed, escaped from capture but subsequently died, or suffered significant sub-lethal impacts, caught in ghost nets or landed but not recorded.
For years, conservationists and animal protection groups have been concerned about drift gill nets and have led successful campaigns to ban them in several countries. In fact, Mercy For Animals conducted multiple undercover investigations exposing the blatant animal cruelty and widespread destruction of marine life by the driftnet fishing industry, including sharks stabbed and bludgeoned with a baseball bat, animals left to slowly suffocate on deck, and seabirds and dolphins drowning after getting caught in nets. Months after these investigations were released, California lawmakers passed legislation banning driftnets off the state’s coast.
Speaking out for dolphins and other aquatic animals is easy! Just make the compassionate choice to add more plant-based meals to your routine. Get delicious vegan meal ideas by ordering a FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide today, and check us out on Pinterest for even more recipes.