Dolphin Predators

Dolphins appear to make a tasty meal for many predators. And why not? With an exceptionally high fat content, dolphins and other cetaceans provide great nutrition for predators who stalk, or swim stalkingly, throughout the ocean.

However, dolphins are more trouble than it’s worth and most predators generally learn to steer clear of dolphin pods, including sharks.

Like elephants, dolphins will circle protectively around the weak members of the pod, and viciously attack anything that approaches in a threatening manner. And they can kill sharks. Most predators take one look, and then just swim away.

Sharks and Other Ocean Predators

Dolphins don’t worry a lot about being eaten. In general, their only real predator is the shark, and even then only the larger species of sharks dare to attack dolphins. Dolphins have evolved over the millennia to be pretty tough, so in general even most sharks stay away from them.

Dolphin parts have been found in the bellies of killer whales, who will eat just about anything. Whether this means the orca scavenged the dolphin or actually hunted it down is unknown.

In fact, dolphins and Killer whales team sometimes to catch some prey.

Killer whale - Apex predator.

Killer whale – Apex predator.

The Most Dangerous Predator

As with most edible species today, the most dangerous threat is man.

For years, dolphin was discarded as source of proteins because of their gentleness and the stories about rescued sailors, but with time, such respect has been lost and dolphins are increasingly threatened.

Sometimes, dolphins are killed not because they are a source of food, but because they prey on the same fish species than humans. Therefore, many fishermen have killed dolphins specifically because they think dolphins will ruin their catch.

Even more, there are some countries that eat cetaceans, including dolphins. In Japan, the meat of some dolphin species is seen as a delicacy, and can cost up to US $25 a pound.

In Peru and many other Latin American countries where the ocean has been largely depleted of fish due to overfishing or environmental conditions such as El Nino, fishermen have turned to catch dolphins and porpoises to sell in fish markets.

Besides, there are some countries like the Faroe Islands, where killing and eating cetaceans, including dolphins, is a longstanding cultural tradition.

Unintentional Deaths

Tragically, the largest group of dolphins killed by man are those killed by accident or incidentally during large-scale fishing operations. Drift nets are unbreakable nets set adrift to catch whatever swims their way – sort of like oceangoing traps.

Dolphins and other cetaceans that swim into these nets following fish, become entangled and die drown when they can’t reach the surface, or tear off parts of their body in their struggles to escape.

During tuna fishing, fishermen have found that tuna swim beneath dolphins in great numbers so they get caught when nets are deployed to catch tuna. Though the surviving dolphins are released, it’s estimated that a minimum of 30 million dolphins have been killed in this way since observations began in the 1960s.

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