Teach your toddler the alphabet with the D is for Dolphin T-Shirts, mugs, stickers, and more!

Some dolphin species face an uncertain future, especially some of the river dolphin species such as the Amazon River dolphin, and the Ganges and Yangtze River dolphin, all of which are critically or seriously endangered. A 2006 survey found no individuals of the Yangtze River dolphin, leading to the conclusion that the species is now functionally extinct.[25]

Contamination of environment - the oceans, seas, and rivers - is an issue of concern, especially pesticides, heavy metals, plastics, and other industrial and agricultural pollutants which do not disintegrate rapidly in the environment are reducing dolphin populations, and resulting in dolphins building up unusually high levels of contaminants. Injuries or deaths due to collisions with boats, especially their propellers, are also common.

Various fishing methods, most notably purse seine fishing for tuna and the use of drift and gill nets, results in a large amounts of dolphins being killed inadvertently.[26] Accidental by-catch in trout nets is common and poses a risk for mainly local dolphin populations. In some parts of the world such as Taiji in Japan and the Faroe Islands, dolphins are traditionally considered as food, and killed in harpoon or drive hunts.

Dolphin drive hunting, also called dolphin drive fishing, is a method of hunting dolphins and occasionally other small cetaceans by driving them together with boats and then usually into a bay or onto a beach. Their escape is prevented by closing off the route to the open sea or ocean with boats and nets. Dolphins are hunted this way in several places around the world. The largest number of dolphins are hunted using this method in Japan, however the practice also occurs on the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands and Peru. Dolphins are mostly hunted for their meat; some are captured and end up in dolphinariums.

Despite the controversial nature of the hunt resulting in international criticism and the possible health risk that the often polluted meat causes, many thousands of dolphins are caught in drive hunts each year.

Protest and campagins are now common in Taiji. In 2003, two activists were arrested for cutting fishing nets to release captured dolphins.[18] They were detained for 23 days. In 2007, American actress Hayden Panettiere was involved in a violent confrontation with Japanese fishermen as she tried to disrupt the hunt. She paddled out on a surfboard, with five other surfers from Australia and the United States, in an attempt to reach a pod of dolphins to stop them being driven into a nearby cove and killed, but they were intercepted by a fishing boat before they could reach the dolphins. The fishermen used the boat's propellers to block their way and at one point struck out with a boat hook in a confrontation that lasted more than 10 minutes before the surfers were forced to return to the beach. The surfers drove straight to Osaka airport and left the country to avoid being arrested for trespassing by the Japanese police.[19] Taiji's fishery cooperative union argues that these protesters "continue willfully to distort the facts about this fishery" and that protester's agendas are "based neither on international law nor on science but rather on emotion for economic self-interest."[20] Some of the animal welfare organisations campaigning against the drive hunts are Sea Shepherd, One Voice, BlueVoice, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Japan has pressured the United States to declare Sea Shepherd a terrorist organization, while Sea Shepherd claims that Japan violates their treaty obligations to the International Whaling Commission by killing Pilot Whales

Though drive hunts happen in various places around the world, it is mainly the Japanese drive hunts that receive considerable international criticism. The hunts are considered very brutal by many, especially because dolphins are popular in human culture and known to be highly intelligent mammals.[35] Not all of the Japanese fishermen are convinced of this and do not believe dolphins deserve to be treated any different from fish. Since the hunt dates back several centuries, it has become a tradition and thus the criticism is perceived by some as an attack on their culture. Since much of the criticism is the result of photos and videos taken during the hunt and slaughter, it is now common for the final capture and slaughter to take place on site inside a tent or under a plastic cover, out of sight from the public. The most notorious and widespread footage is probably that of the drive and subsequent capture and slaughter process taken in Futo in October of 1999 (a still of which can be seen on the right), shot by the Japanese animal welfare organisation Elsa Nature Conservancy. Part of this footage was, amongst others, shown on CNN. In recent years, the video has also become widespread on the internet and was featured in the animal welfare documentary Earthlings.

Well known are also the images from Iki Island taken in 1979 of a Japanese fisherman stabbing dolphins with a spear in shallow waters.

The hunts on the Faroe Islands also attract some international criticism but much less when compared to Japan, while the hunts in Peru mainly seem to get the interest of only local animal welfare organisations. The hunts on the Solomon Islands seemed to draw little to no criticism, however the recent transfer of dolphins from the Solomon Islands to a newly constructed dolphinarium in Dubai received considerable international attention.

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