The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched an investigation into images circulating on social media depicting five Maldivians posing for a picture while holding a dolphin.
EPA Director General Ibrahim Naeem said that the agency has found out the names of the individuals in the pictures, which he believes was taken in Faafu Atoll.
“This is a despicable event,” said Naeem. “We should not be touching these animals and should be trying to limit our interactions with them in order to preserve nature.”
He said he did not know whether the dolphin in the picture was released back in to the wild or was dead when the picture was taken.
The images have surfaced in the same week that the EPA launched a separate investigation into pictures showing the staff of a Maldivian safari boat and foreign tourists capturing endangered shark species.
Furamaana Travels – which operate the safari shown in the pictures – has told Minivan News that several protected species including sharks and sting rays were caught before being released back into the ocean after removing the lines and hooks.
However, the pictures prompted outrage as they appeared to show tourists and staff members posing for the camera while holding several of the animals.
Additionally, a 10 minute video showed how one shark was kept in one of the boat holds until it was deemed weak enough for the people to hold it for a picture.
“How would they know what they caught before they fish it out of the water?” asked a Furamaana staff member.
“As soon as it was discovered that endangered species were caught, the safari crew removed the hooks and line. They were released into the sea, unharmed.”
The EPA’s Naeem said today that it is necessary to take out the hook from a fish if it is accidentally caught on the line, in order to prevent infections and irreversible damage.
“However, we should be very careful as to how we do it,” he added.
Executive director at the environmental NGO Bluepeace Rilwan Ali commended the work being done by the EPA to protect the environment, and to bring perpetrators to justice.
“The EPA is proactively trying to take action regarding such issues,” said Rilwan. “Capturing such animals are illegal and adequate measures should be taken against them.”
Last month, local NGOs condemned images showing a turtle being cut in half for its eggs and meat, prompting the fisheries ministry to commence work on introducing stricter fines of up to MVR10 million (US$650,000) for illegal capture of turtles and tortoises.
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