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News 17 Jul 07
Brazil fishermen caught killing dolphins
By Alan Clendenning, Associated Press Writer
A crew of Brazilian fishermen was captured on video killing 83 dolphins and joking about their illegal haul, Brazil's Ibama environmental protection agency said Tuesday.
The video obtained by an Ibama researcher and broadcast by Globo TV showed the fishermen netting the dolphins, which suffocated because they could not surface to breathe.
The dead dolphins were then hauled from the sea and piled on the boat's deck. Fishermen on board are seen laughing after someone said, "Everyone's going to jail after this filming!"
International dolphin advocates who saw the video said they were appalled and Ibama announced it will try to impose fishing restrictions along parts of Brazil's coast where dolphins are common.
The researcher had been contracted by the agency to monitor catches of other fish in the area where the dolphin kill took place off the coast of Amapa state, near where the Amazon River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
No one has been charged or fined because authorities were still trying to identify the fishermen on video, Ibama said in a statement. The agency said the video was not available to be copied by other media because it was being transported to Brasilia for the investigation.
After they are identified, "they will suffer the appropriate sanctions," Ibama said. It was not immediately clear whether the video of the dolphins being killed was made by the researcher or a crew member.
Fishermen who illegally snag dolphins usually sell the meat to other boats to use as bait to catch sharks, Globo TV said.
The images came as a surprise to groups working to protect dolphins around the world. "Brazil has strict laws to protect whales and dolphins in their waters, and they are very clearly being abused," said Claire Bass, program manager for marine mammals with the London-based World Society for the Protection of Animals.
"Using nets to kill these extremely sociable and intelligent animals by drowning them is completely diabolical."
Dolphins are also caught off the coast of Africa for shark bait, she said.
Emma Butler, spokeswoman at Britain's Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said she thought the Latin America practice of killing dolphins to use as bait had been "consigned to history."
"It is very regrettable that it appears this is not the case," she said.
Killing dolphins is punishable by up to 1 1/2 years in prison in Brazil. Ibama is working to ban fishing in all areas along Brazil's coast where dolphins flock, the statement said.
But in the Amazon city of Belem, river dolphin jaws are sold in an open-air market. The eyes are also sold as fetishes to men who believe they have magical powers attract riches and women, and dolphins penises are ground into a powder thought to make men more virile.
River dolphins are sometimes harpooned in the Amazon and used as bait, Bass said.
Fishermen who kill the river dolphins try to wound them so they can be tied to trees while still alive. "Then they come and kill them for the bait as and when they need it," Bass said.
Associated Press Writer Stan Lehman contributed to this report from Sao Paulo.
Related articles on Dolphins and other cetaceans and large fishes.
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