Pink dolphins are celebrated and feared in the Amazon, and they may also be extinct one day if fishermen keep up the pressure, according to a story in The New York Times this weekend.
The dolphins are naughty figures in local lore, said to take human form and "impregnate" unsuspecting young women (really now!), and they possess a vice and virtue that produce the same result: the stab of local fishermens' harpoons.
In upriver towns like Igarapé, about three hours by boat from Santarém, fishermen talk openly about killing the dolphins, which are protected by law in Brazil. The dolphins eat a prodigious number of fish, thus competing with the locals, and they are extremely valuable dead and chopped up as bait for a local catfish, piracatinga, that's exported for dinner tables around South America.
One fisherman tells a reporter that two dolphins produce enough bait to catch $2400 worth of catfish in a day. That sounds a bit suspect. What is it about dolphin meat that's so delectable to catfish? The story says it's the strong odor of their bones. The Amazon is teeming with fish and other creatures, many more prevalent than dolphins, could dolphins flesh really be a superior bait? Hard to know. What's clear, however, is that the Pink dolphins are dying off.
Researchers estimated there are 30,000 Pink dolphins in the area, and their numbers appear to be dropping sharply, despite the fact it's illegal to kill them. Ipama, Brazil's environment police have reportedly never visited this area, though after this story betting chances are they will soon. The story in the Times also has a really worthwhile video attached. -Ned DesmondPhoto by Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times