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Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Humpback whale underwater

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Black Sea common dolphins © Elena Gladilina

The dolphin and porpoise casualties of the war in Ukraine

Rare, threatened subspecies of dolphins and porpoises live in the Black Sea along Ukraine's coast....
WDC's Ed Fox, Chris Butler-Stroud and Carla Boreham take a message from the ocean to parliament

Taking a message from the ocean to parliament

It's a sad fact that whales and dolphins don't vote in human elections, but I...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Tokitae in captivity

Talking to TUI – will they stop supporting whale and dolphin captivity?

Last Thursday I travelled to Berlin for a long-anticipated meeting with TUI senior executives. I...

Earth Day Q&A with Waipapa Bay Wines’ marketing director, Fran Draper

We've been partnered with Waipapa Bay Wines since 2019 so for this year's Earth Day,...

New 'litmus paper test' for dolphin meat sparks arrests in Taiwan

Last Thursday, Taiwanese coastguards announced the arrest of a couple at their home in the southern county of Yunlin and the seizure of 820 kilograms (1,800 pounds) of dolphin meat which they described as their biggest haul so far this year. The accused claim to have acquired the meat from a supplier in the north and admitted to having already sold 120 kilograms (265 pounds)  to restaurants.  Arrested under Taiwan’s wildlife protection laws, they face up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of up to 1.5 million Taiwan dollars (US$50,000) if convicted.

This case is  particularly significant as, only a few weeks ago, Taiwan announced the introduction of a new on-the-spot litmus paper test for suspicious meat.  Officials trained in using this new biotechnology were able to determine that the seized meat was indeed dolphin. Whales and dolphins have been legally protected in Taiwanese waters since 1989, but poachers have often attempted to avoid prosecution by mislabeling meat or cutting the heads off hunted dolphins or whales to prevent species identification.

The Taiwanese government financed the development of this new test which is designed to be activated by the unique structure of a protein in whales and dolphins – and delivers a result in as little as 10 minutes. The test will supplement existing DNA analysis which is more rigorous but can take up to five days to return results.

At the moment, the ‘trade off’ for obtaining such rapid results means that it is only possible to determine whether the meat comes from a whale or dolphin (rather than another species yielding similar-looking  red meat) and there will still be a requirement in some cases for formal DNA analysis in order to learn which  whale or dolphin species or population was involved.

However, WDC welcomes this new technology as an important step forward in efforts to stamp out illegal trade in whale and dolphin meat. By enabling officials to rapidly identify the presence of whale or dolphin products, they can make arrests, confiscate suspicious consignments and close off sales outlets without losing valuable time.  

 

About Vanessa Williams-Grey

Policy manager - Stop Whaling and Responsible Whale Watching