Rumours of an illegal dolphin harvest have swirled around Peru for years, a secret slaughter involving thousands of dolphins, dwarfing the high seas drama of the annual whale hunt in Antarctica. Known as “sea pigs” by fishermen in Peru, dolphins are reportedly harpooned and diced up on deck, before being skewered onto hundreds of hooks strung out on long-lines at sea to attract sharks. It’s a bloody business but it can save fishermen hundreds if not thousands of dollars in costly fish bait every trip. Dolphin meat is particularly enticing to sharks, and while substitutes are available, to the hard-bitten men who brave these high seas, all that matters is that it is free.
Until recently, nobody was ever able to get close enough to prove the Peruvian dolphin hunt exists. The fine for getting caught would bankrupt a small fisherman. And so the hunt remained no more than a rumour, denied at every opportunity by both the fishing industry and the government in Peru. I have made multiple trips to Peru — but the dolphin hunt has always remained elusive. Then in June, whilst I sat with my family in Brighton, I received the call I had been both hoping for and dreading: my fixer had finally coaxed a shark captain to take us out on a hunting trip with them, in exchange for help with fuel costs, and on strict condition of anonymity.
- Pulitzer Center grantee Jim Wickens detailing how he got the first footage of Peru’s dolphin slaughter. Read more and see the video here.