Japan Education Programme
With over 20,000 small whales and dolphins slaughtered in Japanese waters annually, and another 1,000 large whales taken in Japan’s ‘scientific research’ hunts on the high seas, Japanese government policy continues to pose one of the greatest challenges to WDCS’s global fight to protect whales and dolphins. Japan continues to defy international opinion by hunting whales despite an international moratorium, and even extending its self-allocated quota to include endangered and threatened species of whales, such as the fin and humpback whale. Through a myriad of efforts, WDCS is working to change the public’s perception of whales and dolphins in Japan.
WDCS has supported public education campaigns through local Japanese NGOs, including the dissemination of information related to mercury and other heavy-metal contamination in whale and dolphin meat for sale in local markets. WDCS has visited Taiji and Futo, Japan, to witness and document the annual dolphin drive hunts which commence in September, and continue through April each year. In these hunts, over 2,000 small whales and dolphins, including pilot whales and Risso’s, striped and bottlenose dolphins are corralled into small coves where they are subsequently slaughtered for their meat, or taken alive for the international aquarium industry. WDCS’s report, Driven by Demand details the insidious connection between local and international marine parks and the dolphin drive hunts in Japan. The report has been translated into Japanese and is currently being disseminated through various educational outreach initiatives in Japan. In addition, WDCS has been working with international marine mammal scientists to put pressure on zoo and aquarium associations, Japanese and other marine parks in the region to abolish the practice of sourcing live dolphins from these hunts.
WDCS is also pleased with the attention that the recent documentary, The Cove, has received in the aftermath of its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2009 (see http://www.thecovemovie.com/). WDCS is grateful for the dedication of the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) team of filmmakers and Ric O’Barry for their determination and courage in bringing this issue to the public through their documentary and continuing presence each drive hunt season in Taiji, Japan. WDCS and its partners presented the drive hunt issue to the scientific community at the Society for Marine Mammalogy (SMM) meeting in 2005 where OPS director Louie Psihoyos was also first introduced to the atrocities being committed against dolphins in Taiji.
Working with WDCS, the Elsa Nature Conservancy, a Japanese conservation organization, has developed an ‘educational road show’ that is traveling throughout Japan, and serving to educate students and the general public about dolphins and the threats that they face, including the dolphin drive hunts, whaling and captivity. This educational exhibit will travel through universities in Tokyo and through the coastal villages where the hunts occur, providing an opportunity to contrast the beautiful images of whales and dolphins in the wild with images of drive, harpoon and other hunts. WDCS will continue to foster the love and appreciation for whales and dolphins that can be found within Japan, and hopes to shape that into a public sentiment that encourages the government of Japan to abandon these cruel and unsustainable practices.
The first education event occured in April 2007 at Waseda University in Tokyo, and the second event occurred on October 27th, 2008 at the National Olympics Memorial Center, also in Tokyo. Through a series of lectures, video presentations, and photo images of dolphins both in the wild contrasted with images depicting the dolphin drive hunts, the public was presented with some of the issues confronting dolphins in Japan, and challenged to discuss the issues in a focused setting. Conducted by our partners in Japan, Elsa Nature Conservancy, Circlet, and Atelier Orca, the event was held at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center and involved a range of age groups and interested parties. Through a series of panel exhibitions, lectures and discussion sessions, participants were able to express their concerns and reaction to the information presented. DVD and video presentations included topics meant to inspire participants to think about the relationship between dolphins and humankind, and included mercury contamination, captivity and the drive hunts. A lecture by actress Yuki Okazaki was also provided entitled ‘Whales that Changed my Life’. A panel exhibition of whale and dolphin photos included images from the drive hunts as well as original pictures by Takao Kato from the book “Keiko, an orca whale, that returned to the Ocean,” written by Sakae Hemmi. Displays of recent data on dolphins and mercury contamination in dolphin meat were provided, as well as a separate children’s corner for families that attended with children.