A series of photographs where a group of fishermen are shown brutally killing and slicing adult sea lions has caused a wave of indignation on social media. Although the photographs were uploaded just last week, they have received hundreds of comments and sparked a heated debate on the destructive techniques that are currently being used to capture crabs in southern Chile.
In light of this gruesome event, ORCA Chile, an animal rescue non-profit organization, solicited a comprehensive, in-depth investigation regarding the allegations. The organization's volunteers are making an open call to the community in hopes of collecting more information on the offense and the people responsible for it.
"Killing a legally protected species is becoming an all too common practice between fishermen. Their actions go unpunished because our legislation applies petty penalties and inspections are virtually non-existent," said Zico Henriquez, ORCA's Executive Director. "What's most important here is that finally someone has been brave enough to expose these bad practices."
Cases of murdered sea lions are not uncommon in Chile's coasts and a look at other similar cases seems to prove ORCA's point. As recently as last June, a motorboat Don Bruno was spotted on its way to a warehouse with two dead sea lions on board, one of them killed to be used as bait.
"Based on the facts we have so far, the current case involves ten sea lions and 40 penguins, an enormous blow to our biodiversity," Henriquez explains.
"Using a mammal or a bird to capture fish or other invertebrates is not the most intelligent or sustainable choice. Invertebrates and the majority of fish reproduce at a higher rate, producing a larger number of offspring, than do mammals and birds, which also tend to display parental behaviors. Unfortunately, what can be observed in the images is a hidden reality for most, but a known practice by many in the fishing sector. Having said this, few dare to come forward and report what is happening for fear of retaliations. The times we can count on more than an anecdotal story from someone who witnessed the events are few and far between," states Sofía Martínez Véjar, a biologist.
Constanza Naredo, president of ORCA Chile added, "A couple of months ago we rolled out a campaign called Operación Tridente [Operation Trident] which aims to put an end to these types of practices. We want to find the people who were involved, no matter what it takes, as this cannot go unpunished. It is a serious criminal offense and should be judged as one."
If identified, those responsible of the cruel killings would face charges for animal abuse and cruelty and for manipulation of legally protected hydrobiological resources.
ORCA is now raising funds to continue their efforts towards protecting, defending and creating conciousness about Chile's endangered wildlife, especially the too-often forgotten sea lions. Please consider making a donation to support their work. You can donate through their website by clicking on this link.
[Warning: Graphic images of animals below]