Every year, in Taiji, Japan, dolphins are chased into a small cove and butchered in the most horrific and cruel way imaginable. The hunts are subsidized by the dolphin captivity industry, which pays top dollar for a few “show quality” dolphins that are ripped from their families. The rest of the pod is killed for meat laden with mercury and PCBs. Most Japanese don’t even know the hunts exist. The Japanese government supports the dolphin killers and denies any health issues.
In 2004, we started our Save Japan Dolphins campaign. Through our educational work in Japan, the number of people eating dolphin meat has dropped dramatically. When we started, about 1,600 dolphins were killed inTaiji every year. In the 2014-15 season, fewer than 750 were killed. The Academy Award–winning documentary, The Cove, depicts Earth Island Institute’s campaign in Taiji to stop the dolphin hunts. Recently, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, after 10 years of pressure, agreed to suspend the membership of any Japanese aquarium sourcing dolphins from Taiji. In response, Japan zoos and aquariums voted overwhelmingly to stop buying live dolphins from Taiji.
The Taiji dolphin slaughter continues. The government claims the kills are part of Japan’s traditional culture when, in fact, they only started in 1969. Many Japanese who oppose the hunts are afraid to speak out publicly because of threats from the government and the extremist anti-foreigners groups. We continue to work inside Japan with Japanese activists and organizations to fight the dolphin killing and spread the news about mercury contamination of dolphin meat. We also joined in filing the first-ever lawsuit in Japan against the Taiji Whale Museum, which brokers many of the live dolphins caught in Taiji during the slaughter.
Mark Palmer, June 2017
According to Japan’s NHK television network and Sankei News Service, the Japan Fisheries Agency has agreed to issue permits to Taiji town to capture for captivity and/or slaughter two new species. The news stories do not specify how many will be granted to the quota for the town hunts, which begin Sept. 1st each year and go for six months. The Fisheries Agency was quoted as approving of the increased slaughter by noting “it will be helpful to academic research.”
Kelly D'Ambrogia, May 2017
Earlier this year, member aquariums of the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) decided to withdraw their memberships due to that association’s decision to ban members from acquiring dolphins through the annual Taiji dolphin drive hunts. On March 31, 2017, both the Enoshima Aquarium in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the Shimonoseki Marine Science Museum Kaikyokan, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, withdrew from the organization in a strong statement of opposition to the ban.
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