Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in many Asian cultures, and even though the soup is flavorless with a slithery texture, dining on shark fin soup is considered a status symbol.
The soup, brewed from dried shark fins, is often served at lush banquets to celebrate weddings, anniversaries and corporate and state events.
But in order to meet the growing demand, the fins are harvested around the world in growing numbers. Up to 73 million sharks die a slow death every year because of finning: the inhumane practice of chopping off the shark’s fins and throwing its body back into the sea.
The sharks either drown, starve to death, or are are eaten alive by other fish. And soaring demand for the soup over the past two decades has threatened shark populations globally.
To make matters worse, thousands of dolphins are being slaughtered off the coast of Peru, where the mammals are used as shark bait for shark fin soup.
The dolphin and shark populations have been decimated, and according to the watchdog group Asociación Mundo Azul, at least 10,000 dolphins are killed off the coast of Peru each year by fisherman who use them as shark bait.
CNN reports dolphin killings have been outlawed by Peru’s legislature since 1996, but Stefan Austermuhle, executive director of the animal conservation group Mundo Azul, said fishermen have continued to target the mammals.
He estimated more than 10,000 dolphins are being killed every year in Peruvian waters.
The London-based Ecologist Film Unit recently recorded one of the dolphin hunts in an undercover investigation, which details how bleeding dolphins are hauled on the deck of the vessel. A Peruvian fisherman then peels the skin off the dolphin’s back and cuts the severed body into thin slices.
“In recent years, there’s been an upsurge in the targeting of sharks. The shark meat is predominantly consumed within Peru, but the fins we’re told are being exported to the Far East for use as shark fin soup,” said Jim Wickens, an investigative journalist with the Ecologist Film Unit.
He witnessed the scene along with cameraman Alexander Reynoso who recorded the harpooning of the dolphins.
According to the fisherman, the cost of fish bait in Peru has also gone up yearly. It seems to be part of the story around the world, Wickens said. Fewer fish in the sea means it costs more money to buy them.
CNN notes that since the video has been released, Wickens has been contacted by experts in Southeast Asia who’ve told him this practice might also be taking place close to Indonesian waters as well.
He said it’s hard to know how many dolphins are being killed worldwide because it happens out of sight.
“It’s a conservation car crash. One apex predator being taken out of the ecosystem, being chopped up and fed to catch another,” said Wickens, “Whichever way you look at it, it’s bad news for the ocean.”