The Price of Tradition

Photo: Paul Stein

THE 2010 ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING MOVIE The Cove — which documented dolphin slaughter in Japan — included scenes of OSU researcher Scott Baker conducting DNA analysis covertly in his hotel room. Baker’s stealth genetic science helped ID the marine mammal species being sold in local meat markets. More recently, Baker has studied the killings of thousands of dolphins in the Solomon Islands. The animals’ teeth, worth 70 cents apiece on the local market, are valued for traditions such as dowry necklaces like the one shown above. Baker warns that local dolphin populations could be at risk. “There is an urgent need to improve the monitoring of these catches, with the eventual objective of implementing a management procedure,” Baker says.