Drive Hunt Slaughter Continues In Taiji
Dozens of dolphins and small whales have been the target of drive hunts in Taiji since the hunting season started in September, the issue highlighted in the acclaimed film "The Cove". The hunts are also used to select dolphins to capture alive for the aquarium industry. This is exposed in WDC's report Driven By Demand.
The dolphin drive hunts occur every year from September through April, and are a brutal reminder that we have a very long way to go towards securing a safe and humane future for all cetaceans. WDC has been active in confronting the drive hunts in Japan on a number of levels, from raising awareness of the hunts, taking part in peaceful protests and visiting Japan to document them.We have worked with the marine mammal scientific community to garner a public statement against these hunts, and helped secure a US congressional resolution condemning the practice.
WDC has also worked to secure the acknowledgement of the dolphinarium industry of its complicity in fuelling the dolphin drive hunts through the demand generated by marine parks and aquaria that either directly, or indirectly, source live dolphins from these hunts. And within Japan, we have developed an educational campaign with our Japanese colleagues to educate the public about whales, dolphins and their suffering in drive and other hunts.
Some of the questions you may have about the hunts are answered in our Frequently Asked Questions section below.
1. How many dolphins does Japan catch?
The Japanese government gives permits to fishermen to hunt more than 20,000 small whales, dolphins and porpoises in its costal waters each year. Around 16,000 of these are Dall’s porpoises.
2. Which whales and dolphins are hunted in Japan?
80 per cent of the small whales and dolphins killed off the Japanese coast are Dall’s porpoises. Other species include short-finned pilot whales, false killer whales, bottlenose, Pacific white-sided, striped, common, spotted and Risso’s dolphins.
3. How are they killed?
In one method, called Drive Hunts, fishermen frighten and corral the dolphins into a bay using loud noise, by banging on long pipes held in the water. The dolphins are then trapped in bays (or coves) using large nets, preventing their escape. They are then killed using spears and knives. Dall’s porpoises are killed using hand-thrown harpoons attached to ropes – this is the biggest cetacean slaughter in the world.
4. Where do the hunts take place?
There are six provinces in Japan which are involved in the hunts: Chiba, Hokkaido, Iwate, Miyagi, Okinawa and Wakayama. Currently, the drive hunts only take place in Wakayama, in the fishing village of Taiji - the scene of t"The Cove" in the film. A second fishing village in Shizuoka prefecture, Futo, stopped the hunts, to a large extent after video footage revealing the cruelty of the hunts, in 1999, began an international wave of protest. Currently, they are not finding dolphins, however the quotas remain in place.
5. Why does Japan catch so many dolphins?
Some supermarkets in Japan offer dolphin meat for sale, even though this meat is often heavily contaminated with mercury and other toxins. In order to increase consumption, the Japanese government has even distributed whale and dolphin meat to canteens in schools and hospitals - despite the health risks for consumers. Japanese fishermen also catch and kill dolphins because they believe they are in direct competition for fishery resources and believe they must cull populations to keep them in check as a form of pest control. Fishermen also catch dolphins to sell to aquaria and dolphinaria in Japan and elsewhere for public display and interaction programmes such as swimming with dolphins.
6. Does the Japanese public know about this?
The majority of the Japanese public do not know the extent of the hunts, how cruel they are or how highly polluted the dolphin meat may be. Some do not even know the hunts take place at all. The quantities of mercury in some dolphin meat exceed the Japanese recommended minimum of 0.4ppm (parts per million) by 5 to 5000. Dolphin meat is also often mislabelled as whale meat, which is considered better quality.
7. What about the argument that people in other countries are hypocritical for their condemnation of the hunts when they kill cows and other animals?
Although WDC cannot comment on the welfare of cattle or other animals slaughtered in the UK or elsewhere, since our remit is limited to cetaceans, we would like to respond to the argument that the drive hunts are no different from people killing cows for food. Cetaceans are wild animals living in distinct populations and in many cases little research has been carried out on their status or how these hunts may affect their survival. Cetaceans also have complicated social structures and in some instances specific cultures. It is not known what affects the hunting or capture and removal of individuals from these populations has on the welfare and conservation status of the remaining animals. Also, unlike domestic animals which in most countries, including Japan, are subject to protection from inhumane slaughter methods and treatment, cetaceans are subject to no such regulation and killing techniques are cruel and painful.
8. What role do dolphinaria have in the drive hunts?
Dolphinaria make the drive hunts in Taiji lucrative. While demand for dolphin meat is small (approx. US$400 per dolphin), live dolphins, once trained, can be sold for up to US$150,000. In 2004, 23 bottlenose dolphins were taken from the Taiji dolphin hunts to become imprisoned in dolphinaria.
9. But don’t dolphinaria claim they are rescuing the dolphins from the hunts?
WDC believes that this “rescue” rationale to purchase cetaceans captured in drive hunts is misguided and belies the large sums of money paid by aquaria for individual whales and dolphins captured alive from these hunts.
10. How do dolphins suffer in captivity?
In the wild dolphins can easily travel up to 100km a day, spend only about 20% of their time above water, and can reach speeds of up to 60 km/h. In captivity their movements and choices are significantly reduced, leading to boredom, stress and aggression between pool-mates and towards their trainers. The water quality in some dolphinaria can be so poor that they develop skin conditions and ulcers. They are fed dead fish and have to undergo fertility and medical treatment. Life in the wild can not be recreated in captivity. In addition, dolphins are transported long distances between facilities, sometimes dying in the long process from capture to confinement.
11. Why are dolphins so popular?
There are currently 41 known dolphin species - from the tiny Hector’s dolphin (1.2m) up to the impressive orca (9m). Dolphins have impressed humans for centuries with their pronounced social behaviour, intelligence, curiosity and elegance in the water. Their leaping and seemingly joyful play, as well as their constant smile makes them popular in human culture. However, it must be noted that a dolphin’s ‘smile’ is, in fact, a morphological feature. They look as though they’re smiling even when they are dead. In a way, they have become victims of their own success – now they are huge money spinners for the dolphinaria/zoo industry.
12. Is Dolphin Assisted Therapy (DAT) useful?
More and more frequently dolphins are being caught for use in DAT programmes. Dolphinaria claim that these therapies can be used as a treatment for illness and disability but there is no scientific evidence to suggest any long-term benefits and WDC concerns include the fact that there are no standards to ensure the welfare of human participants or the dolphins taking part.