wo in a group of fishermen who were seen apparently beheading a dolphin in photos that went viral on Facebook last week have been identified, environmental police in the southern province of Kien Giang said Tuesday.
The fishermen have been summoned by police in respect of the photos, which seem to show they excitedly and joyfully posed with the dolphin, seemingly before beheading and slaughtering the helpless animal.
The barbaric act of the fishermen were depicted in six photos first posted on a Facebook page called “Nguoi Phu Quoc” (People of Phu Quoc), an online community for residents of Phu Quoc Island, a district administered by Kien Giang.
In one of the photos, two men were seen sitting on the dolphin, while another held its mouth. One photo shows the cut body parts and internal organs of the dolphin, and another, the beheaded animal.
The photos have sparked outrage among not only Phu Quoc islanders but also people in and out of Vietnam, as the Facebook post went viral, prompting local maritime life protection authorities to investigate the case.
Kien Giang environmental police said on Tuesday that the fishermen had confirmed they were in the viral photos, but added that the incident happened about three years ago.
The fishermen, not Phu Quoc islanders as widely believed but hailing from the south-central province of Binh Dinh, said the dolphin was found dead after getting stuck in their nets.
The fishermen then decided to behead and slaughter it to make some “dried dolphin meat” to bring back to their hometown, and someone took photos of the beheading and slaughtering process.
The two fishermen told police that the story had since gone forgotten until the photos surfaced on Facebook by “someone [they] did not know.”
The fishermen also acknowledged that slaughtering a dolphin and showcasing the act online were “insensible.”
An official from the Kien Giang environmental police unit said if the fishermen’s account is true, that the incident happened quite long ago and the dolphin died after accidentally getting caught in their fishing nets, the fishers may be exempt from penalties.
“We may only admonish them and ‘re-educate’ them about the need to protect endangered animals,” the official said.
Nguyen Thanh Nhanh, chief police officer of Phu Quoc District, also said relevant fishermen will be “re-educated.”
Ha The Phong, director of the Phu Quoc maritime life protection agency, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper in an interview last week, that dolphins, together with sea turtles and dugongs, are endangered animals under strict protection on Phu Quoc.
“Dolphins play an important role in the spiritual life of Vietnamese fishermen, so the acts of the men in the photos are unacceptable,” he pressed.
There is quite a large population of dolphins in the waters surrounding Phu Quoc Island, with local fishermen showing great respect for the animals, even calling them “sir.”
Whenever a dead dolphin washes ashore, local fishers will hold a funeral for it and take its bones to altars built along the beach.
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