More than 400kg of meat allegedly harvested from whales and dolphins was intercepted by the Coast Guard Administration in Yilan County’s Suao Township (蘇澳) on Wednesday, even though hunting cetaceans has been banned for more than two decades, the Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA) said yesterday.
The Forestry Bureau, which previously managed protected species before transferring responsibility to the OCA, in 1995 listed all cetaceans as protected and banned hunting and trading in the animals, the OCA said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Yilan County Government informed the OCA that Coast Guard Administration officials in Suao had stopped a driver surnamed Lin (林), who was delivering 449.5kg of meat seemingly cut from cetaceans, it said.
Photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Administration
The Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau is to perform DNA identification on the sampled meat, the OCA said.
The driver is being investigated for contravening the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法), which imposes a prison term of six months to five years or a fine of between NT$300,000 and NT$1.5 million (US$9,653 and US$48,267) on those harassing, abusing, hunting, slaughtering or trading protected species or products made from them, it said.
Lin initially claimed he was delivering shark meat, which is not banned, but county agricultural officials judged from its appearance that it might have been taken from cetaceans, Coast Guard Administration Fleet Branch Seventh Corps Deputy Captain Yang Chi (楊淇) said.
The slain creatures might have been caught in the waters off Yilan and sold to people near industrial parks in Yunlin and Changhua counties, Yang said, adding that further investigation would be required.
The possible consumers are foreign workers who are said to prefer meat with a heavier flavor, while Taiwanese could also be the likely buyers, he said.
Businesspeople from central and southern Taiwan often visit Suao to collect cetacean meat, Yang said, citing information obtained from local fishers.
Consumers often order dolphin meat at restaurants by asking for “No. 12 pork,” because dolphins are “sea pigs” in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) and pigs are ranked 12th in the Chinese zodiac, he added.
Despite the ban on hunting protected species, there is demand, OCA Marine Conservation Division head Ko Ching-lin (柯慶麟) said.
The seized meat is being stored at a county government warehouse and it would be destroyed when the judicial investigation closes, Ko said.
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