Puzzling creatures with massive intelligence levels, dolphins are one of the most studied animals of our generation, and perhaps the most complex. Dolphins, defined as small-toothed whales, are the friendliest, most approachable members of the whale family. Yet each year thousands of these creatures are killed by humans. Why?
Commercial fishing, the use of gill nets, and pollution all contribute to the decrease in dolphins. Ocean dumping has caused some populations to die from disease, and has suppressed the reproduction of others. The most severe threat is commercial fishing. Gill nets kill huge numbers of dolphins each year. In most cases, dolphins were not the target of the fishermen, but were trapped accidentally. This waste is the hidden cost of the cheap seafood we have carelessly enjoyed for years.
Individually, most humans like dolphins. But as a species we are wiping out entire populations. What can you do to turn this terrible trend around? You can cast your vote in favor of legislation designed to clean up our oceans, prevent dumping, and ban gill net fishing. You can take care when selecting the seafood you purchase. Try to find out if this fish you plan to buy was grown on an aqua-culture farm, caught by hook and line, or captured in a gill net (undoubtedly resulting in incidental kill). Consumer demand fuels fisheries. Make sure that the tuna you buy says "dolphin safe" on the label.
During the 1990s there has been a growing tide of environmentalism. Maybe we humans will turn out to be smart enough to save our planet for ourselves, for dolphins, and for all creatures that call this planet home. u
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.