Former dolphin killing in Peru

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The consumption of dolphin meat was not originally a Peruvian custom. It was introduced to Peru by Italian settlers in the 1960s, when fishermen began landing small numbers of dolphins that had been caught accidentally in fishing nets. They began to sell dolphin meat under the name “Muchame,” after a typical Italian dish made of dried muscle meat extracted from the dorsal part of the dolphin and served as an appetizer.


After overfishing of sardines led to the the first big fisheries crash in 1970, Peruvians turned to dolphin meat as a cheap source for protein. Dolphin catches climbed dramatically, and the commercialization of small cetaceans increased further.  By the early 1980s, six species (the dusky dolphin, Burmeister’s porpoise, both short-beaked and long-beaked common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, and pilot whale) were being openly fished.

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In 1985, Biologist David Gaskin surveyed some small ports in Peru and estimated the total annual cetacean consumption at approximately 10,000 specimens. In 1989, the Peruvian population of dusky dolphins was declared by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cetacean Specialist Group to be at risk of extinction.  On 23 November 1990, the Peruvian Ministry of Fisheries passed Resolution No. 569-90-PE, which prohibited the extraction of dolphin meat. Apparently estimating that legal prohibition would prevent further dolphin kills, the government stopped collecting data on port landings (see table above) but failed to enforce this resolution.

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A private inspection of ports and fish markets in 1993 found that the trade in dolphin meat had increased from 15,000 to 20,000 dolphins annually.  On 5 August 1994, in response to these findings, the Ministry of Fisheries passed Resolution No. 321-94-PE, which prohibited the extraction, processing, and commercialization of small cetaceans.  Again, however, the government failed to enforce the regulation.

Cruzada por la vida

In 1995, the Peruvian NGO Cruzada por la Vida launched a public education campaign against the slaughter of small cetaceans in Peru.  Led by Nina Pardo and Olga Rey (both foundation members of Mundo Azul), this campaign resulted in Peruvian Congress’s 2 April 1996 passage of Law No. 26585, which prohibited the extraction, processing, and commercialization of several dolphin species. Thanks to this law and the success of the Cruzada por la Vida campaign, the consumption of dolphin meat dropped dramatically and it was removed from supermarket shelves.

Despite this milestone, we estimate that up to 3,000 dolphins are still killed illegally in Peru each year for human consumption. Mundo Azul volunteers are engaged in undercover investigation of illegal sales of dolphin meat. We collect and provide intelligence to the Peruvian police and actively support the implementation of police raids. We also supporte the Peruvian police through capacity building. Further, Mundo Azul volunteers work tirelessly to raise public awareness and provide environmental education as part of our dolphin conservation campaign. We also engage in dolphin research, which provides important baseline information for conservation planning. Finally, we work to promote whale and dolphin watching as sustainable economic alternatives to illegal dolphin killing.


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Page author: Stefan Austermühle

Reviewed by: Janet K. Hawkins

Last updated: 2010.06.20

What you can do to stop the dolphin slaughter in Peru

  1. Stay informed  – Connect to our various social network profiles, RSS-feeds and the newsletter
  2. Spread the word - Share this webpage with your social network friends (see our add-it function) or send out the link by email.
  3. Volunteer – Become a dolphin conservation volunteer in Peru.
  4. Go whale watching and dolphin watching in Peru with Nature Expeditions: Your participation directly supports Mundo Azul’s research and conservation work—and you show the Peruvian public that tourism can be an economic alternative to dolphin killing.

If you have any questions, comments, or want to support us, please contact us.

Related links: 

Whale and dolphin species of Peru

Go whale watching in Peru

Go dolphin watching in Peru

Whale watching as an alternative to dolphin killing

Be a dolphin conservation volunteer

Stop dolphin slaughter in Peru

Mundo Azul’s whale and dolphin research

First aid for stranded dolphins

Stop whaling


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Be a conservation volunteer with Mundo Azul

Take part in dolphin and wildlife conservation projects, advocacy campaigns, environmental education and much more


Apply for an internship

If you want to dedicate a few months or more to meaningful conservation work in Peru, than this is the option for you.


Book the following trips with Mundo Azuls commercial partner Nature Expeditions in Peru in order to support our conservation work

coastal marine birding               coastal wetland birding                                                     Urban birding in Lima


Protected bird site                                           Coastal desert oasis

Pantanos de Villa                                               Lomas de Lachay                                              Birding in the Andes





Please also support the following conservation campaigns

Save the dolphins          Save the sharks