Brazil is in the process of temporarily banning the catch of catfish, in order to save the Pink River dolphins. According to the Fishing and Aquaculture Ministry, the flesh of the dolphins are used for bait to catch the catfish.
The Pink River dolphins, also known as the Amazon River dolphins, are some of the most intelligent, and beautiful dolphins in the world. Similar to other dolphins they are typically friendly, and have a brain capacity that is forty percent larger than that of humans. These dolphins swim in the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers in South America, and are the largest river dolphin species in the world.
The Pink River dolphins are used for their skin, which is hooked on fishing gear to catch piracatingas, otherwise known as ‘water vultures’, which are a carnivorous catfish that are attracted to dead animal carcasses at the bottom of the river.
Ministry spokesman Ultimo Valadares said the government is planning to enforce a five-year moratorium which will make it illegal to catch any member of the piracatinga species of fish. Valadares is hoping that the moratorium, will help to increase the population of the Pink River dolphin.
“In the Mamiraua Reserve, more than 1,500 freshwater dolphins are killed annually,” said Nivia de Campo, president of an environmental activist group in the northern jungle state of Amazonas. “Their numbers have continued to dwindle 10 percent each year since 2000 due to the ongoing slaughter,” she added.
De Campo is relieved that action is finally being taken to help the dolphins. She said that “since 2000, when fishermen started slaughtering them for bait, the number of dolphins living on the reserve has been dropping by about 10 percent a year. The reserve currently has a population of about 13,000 dolphins.”
“Poor fishermen are encouraged to use dolphin flesh as bait by merchants from neighboring Colombia, a big market for that species,” de Campo said. “The pink dolphin is under threat, and if nothing is done to stop the killing it will become extinct,” she added. “That is why the moratorium is excellent news.”
For centuries, the pink dolphins were protected by myth, as many people believed it was bad luck to kill them. According to one tale, the dolphins transform into handsome men and leave the water at night, seducing local women before returning to the river.
Although it is commendable of Brazil to try and help save the Pink River dolphins, it is also sad that there cannot be a ban on all the killing of all species. Some species are still seen as more valuable than others. If all species were seen as equals, Brazil would not have to put a ban on catching catfish in order to save the dolphins. They would be able to just ban dolphin hunting. In fact if all human and nonhuman species were seen as equals, no hunting, or fishing ban would be needed anywhere.
Once all the details have been worked out, the ban on catching catfish will go into effect next year. At least for now, there is hope that the Pink River dolphins will be saved.
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