Photo of hooked dolphin gets flak online

Posted at 04/19/2012 12:57 PM | Updated as of 04/20/2012 9:02 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A photo of a man with a dolphin caught on a fishing hook has gone viral online, with Filipino netizens outraged at what is said to be a form of animal cruelty.

The photo is apparently of a user named “Sailor_16” who, according to his replies in the comments section of his public Facebook album, is a Filipino working in South Africa on a fishing boat.

There were violent reactions to the photo from Sailor_16’s acquaintances. He assured his critics that the dolphin was released soon after it was caught. However, according to Sedricke Lapuz, Assistant Professor from the University of the Philippines Manila Department of Biology, "If the hook pierced the dolphin's body, it may not survive even when returned to the sea. The puncture wounds may lead to blood loss and infection."

A photo that has gone viral online shows a man holding a dolphin caught on a fishing hook.

The viral photo is part of an album containing photos of his family and friends, as well as his and his fellow seafarers’ catch, which include tuna and different species of sharks. There are also images of him butchering a blue marlin fish, presumably for sale at the market.

Blue marlin and tuna are commonly used for cooking. Sharks and dolphins, meanwhile, are considered protected species according to the Convention on International trade of Endangered Species, to which countries adhere voluntarily.

The Philippines abides by it, and has an existing law (FAO No. 185) amended in 1997, which says it is unlawful “to take or catch dolphins, whales and porpoises in Philippine waters or sell, purchase, possess, transport or export the same whether dead or alive, in any state or form, whether raw or processed.”

It is also illegal to catch whale sharks, manta rays and sea cows (dugong) in the country.

Jumax Amellabon, one of the people who made the photo go viral on social networking sites, said in a letter to ABS-CBNnews.com that she is alarmed at “how our seas and its resources are gradually degrading.”

Amellabon said she and her father, who are both scuba divers and nature lovers, are deeply affected the issue.

This controversy comes in the wake of a recent incident in Cebu where tourists were photographed riding whale sharks or “butanding” as surfboards and swimming too close to them.

Environmentalists have attributed the recurrence of online controversies such as this to ignorance of the general populace about what can and cannot be done with marine life.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines), the catching of marine animals such as Hammerhead Sharks, Oceanic Sunfish and Billfish, even in areas outside of the Philippines, is a "sad matter" as most conservationists have never even gotten the chance to see them.

"It seems as if the 'culprit' [in the viral photos] is actually a crewman in a tuna long-lining operation. These boats catch sharks, billfish and turtles just as well as they catch tuna," WWF-Philippines said.

"Unfortunately, [while dolphins cannot be caught legally]...current Philippine Laws (RA 8550) only protect the Whale Shark, Giant Manta Ray and Napoleon Wrasse. All others are fair game."

Also going viral online is an image of sea turtles allegedly illegally caught in the Philippines, in Balabac, Palawan, by Vietnamese fishermen.