Dolphin Slaughter Not Just An Eastern Issue

Dolphins can’t seem to catch a break. While tens of thousands of dolphins continue to be slaughtered each year in the infamous Japanese town of Taiji, the slaughter of thousands more is going largely unmarked on the other side of the Pacific.

Fueled by the Asian demand for shark meat, Peru has recently come under fire for the mass killing of dolphins—often utilizing brutal techniques—to be used as shark bait.

Sure, the practice is technically illegal in the South American country, and the government currently has an investigation underway, yet as long as the market exists, so will the practice.

News of this slaughter first came to light in October of 2013. A National Geographic article on the subject brought forth the unfortunate reality that Peru is not alone in the killing of dolphins for shark bait: nations such as Indonesia, Tanzania, and Vietnam are also subscribing to the practice.

If the number of dolphins killed annually by these countries equals the number from Peru, this could amount to a devastating 60,000 dolphins killed each year to feed the demand for shark meat.

While a recent Take Part article reported that the demand for dolphin meat has seen a reduction in Japan, the slaughter of dolphins to feed demand for shark meat may offset Japanese progress on a global scale.

The ecological effects of the loss of large predators have been established time and again by scientists, and the dramatic reduction of dolphin species will have a huge cost for our oceans.

The slaughter of dolphins across the globe is gratuitously linked to consumer demand—for dolphin meat and the meat of other marine animals—and this demand is posing an extreme threat to cetaceans everywhere.

While issue awareness is a vital step to resolving this crisis, campaigners are wrong to believe that education alone will create change. In regions with deeply-rooted cultural and social norms surrounding the consumption of these commodities, campaigns need to be established that align with the values surrounding these norms while simultaneously discouraging the consumptive behavior.

Unless there is a reduction in the demand for these products, the slaughter of dolphins will continue, legal or not.

Could Ecotourism Hold the Key for Change in Consumptive Behavior?

Ecotourism is a booming industry, and many have high hopes for this industry’s ability to make a positive environmental impact the world over. Seemingly, this industry offers the best of both worlds—a wide-scale platform to practice conservation in key areas and a sustainable way to boost the economies of communities in need.

While there are undoubtedly dangers associated with the mismanagement of ecotourism, many high-profile organizations—the United Nations, for one—have endorsed this industry as a way to make both environmental and economic progress in the world.

Yet there is a missed opportunity in the ecotourism industry.

Huge efforts are made to ensure the well-being of both the environment and communities in ecotourism areas, while the opportunity to promote long-term change in the consumer behaviors of tourists is largely ignored. While there is a niche market within the ecotourism industry that favors sustainable travel behaviors, this market emphasizes sustainable behavior while traveling rather than sustainable behavior as a whole.

By incorporating branding, social marketing, and behavior change marketing techniques, ecotourism destinations can play a large role in changing the damaging consumer behaviors that are damaging our planet.