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Phu Quoc Fishermen Under Fire for Slaughtering Dolphin

A group of fishermen in Phu Quoc is mired in controversy after several photos emerged on Facebook showing them posing with a dolphin and then slaughtering it.

Last Thursday, Vietnam’s cybersphere was shaken by an album of gory photos showing animal cruelty at its worst, according to Tuoi Tre. The Facebook community page Nguoi Phu Quoc posted the album (graphic content in link), sparking outrage among local netizens who tried to hunt down the culprits.

In the series of photos, five men cheerfully pose alongside a dolphin they have caught. Some shots even show one of the perpetrators sitting on the poor creature. It is unclear whether the animal was alive when these shots were taken, however if viewers had any doubt about the fate of the dolphin, the last photo clearly depicts its beheaded body and internal organs.

The heinous act inspired furor among netizens, who flooded the comment sections of related news pieces with anger directed towards the band of dolphin killers. Some even questioned whether they are truly fishermen, as most of Vietnam's seafaring community holds high respect for dolphins and whales.

Director of the Phu Quoc Maritime Protection Agency Ha The Phong told Tuoi Tre on Thursday that he was aware of the incident and it was being investigated.

“First we will verify if the incident really happened in Phu Quoc waters,” he shared with the news outlet. “If that is the case we will call on authorities to sanction the involved fishermen.” Phong also added that on Phu Quoc Island, dolphins, sea turtles and dugongs are endangered and strictly protected.

“Dolphins play an important role in the spiritual life of Vietnamese fishermen, so the acts of the men in the photos are unacceptable,” he said.

On Wednesday, Bao Dat Viet reported Kien Giang province's environmental police and local authorities were able to determine the identity of the people involved. According to Tran Cao Tri, captain of the fishing boat shown in the photos, the group of fishermen did indeed catch the dolphin but the incident happened four years ago, in 2012.

The 40-year-old claimed that in April 2012, the fishermen were hauling their nets in as usual when a dolphin – weighing 30-40 kilograms – was caught and then suffocated. Seeing that the animal was dead, four members of the crew – Tinh, Dia, Tuan and Khanh – butchered and beheaded the mammal to make dried rations. Tri also said that since this occurred so long ago, all the involved culprits had already moved away from the area.

At the moment, officials from the management board of the Phu Quoc Marine Conservation Area have reprimanded Tri for his wrongdoing. Local police have also started a campaign to inform the local fishing community of the legal issues behind the incident and the endangered status of dolphins.

“Once the captain’s claim is verified and the exact timeline of the incident is determined, relevant government agencies will come up with a course of action,” Phong, the conservation area's director, shared with the news source.

In an interview with Tuoi Tre, Le Cao, a lawyer at a Da Nang-based law firm, elaborated on the legality of the dolphin kill: “Depending on the species of dolphin, trafficking and killing of them will have different legal consequences.”

Cao added that in some cases, perpetrators may be fined up to VND100 million. If the species is an endangered one, such as those on the IUCN Red List, the incident could go straight to criminal court, where the punishment may be bumped to VND500 million or a maximum of seven years in jail.

[Photo via Facebook page Nguoi Phu Quoc]

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