As the world population increases, people in coastal poverty-stricken areas are turning to the ocean for their meals, consuming marine mammals such as dolphins and seals. And this is not only happening in poor parts of the world!
The fate of the world's great whale species commands global attention as a result of heated debate between pro and anti-whaling advocates, but the fate of smaller marine mammals is less understood, specifically because the deliberate and accidental catching and killing of dolphins, porpoises, manatees, and other warm-blooded aquatic species are rarely studied or monitored.
Since 1990, at least 87 species of marine mammals have been eaten in 114 countries. The list of marine mammals killed for human consumption includes obscure species such as the pygmy beaked whale, South Asian river dolphin, narwhal, Chilean dolphin, long-finned pilot whale, and Burmeister's porpoise. Seals and sea lions are on the list as well, including species such as the California sea lion and lesser known species such as the Baikal seal. The polar bear (a bear that is considered a marine mammal) also makes the list. Three species of manatee and its close relative the dugong, considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, are also widespread targets of human consumption.
Researcher Martin Robards says, "International regulatory bodies exist to gauge the status of whale populations and regulate the hunting of these giants. These species, however, represent only a fraction of the world’s diversity of marine mammals, many of which are being accidentally netted, trapped, and--in some instances--directly hunted without any means of tracking as to whether these off-takes are sustainable."
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