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Dolphin Hunting Season Opens with Protests in Japan and Around the World

| Mark J. Palmer
Topics: Dolphin and Whale Trade, Dolphins, International Whaling Commission, Slaughter, Taiji, Japan

September 1 marks the official opening of the annual dolphin slaughter season in Taiji, Japan. This year, as in years previous, activists around the world - and increasingly within Japan - came together to voice opposition to the  inhumane treatment of dolphins.

The International Marine Mammal Project joined with other groups to protest at the Japanese Consulate General in San Francisco, accompanied by the inflatable blue dolphin affectionately known as Big Blue. In the Philippines, 300 volunteers, many on bicycles, rallied in front of the Japanese Embassy; this demonstration was organized by Earth Island staff who monitor Dolphin Safe tuna in Asia and the Pacific islands, and was featured widely on television news and in newspapers. This news clip from the Philippines features Earth Island’s director of IMMP’s Asia Pacific Dolphin Safe monitoring office, Trixie Concepcion:

The biggest difference with this year’s day of international action against dolphin slaughters is the groundswell of support from within Japan - something that the International Marine Mammal Project, along with many other groups, has emphasized will be the most effective force for change within Japan. Demonsrations were held in Kyoto, Taiji, Osaka, Shizuoka, Nagoya, Taiji, Kobe, Suma, Tottori and Fukuoka on or around September 1, and represent a significant shift within the nation that does not have a long tradition of speaking out. The brave individuals taking part in these demonstrations risk personal and professional criticism. The international dolphin activism community owes these people deep respect, as they forge a path beyond the government and media censorship that has made the issue of dolphin killing largely invisible throughout Japan.

The hunting boats in Taiji ventured out on September 1 but had no luck.  The season is officially open and will remain so through the end of February.  A total quota of 2040 individuals of different dolphin species has been set by the national Japan Fisheries Agency, an absurd quota given that only 720  were caught for captivity or slaughter last season. 

As can be readily seen from the Chart below, most of the Taiji dolphin hunters’ money now comes from the captivity industry, which is booming in China and Japan, and very popular in other countries.  A dead dolphin will bring perhaps $500 to $600 dollars as meat in a market, but a live trained dolphin can bring as much as $150,000 or more on the world market.

Claims by the Japan government that the hunting is somehow a “tradition” in Taiji are of course ridiculous.  The hunts are about getting trained dolphins for aquariums, not food, and it is hardly a tradition, having started in 1969 according to Taiji town’s own written history.

Oddly, this year’s first week of the dolphin hunts coincides with the meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Brazil, where the Japan government will try again to legalize commercial hunting of whales. Japan controls IWC votes for a number of small countries that have agreed to support whaling at the IWC in return for foreign aid and outright bribes, junkets, and prostitutes. 

For more information on the IWC meeting, click here

The good news is that a number of small but brave Japanese activists and animal rights organizations are standing up this year to the Japan government and dolphin hunters and protesting the hunts of dolphins and the cruelty of captivity.

IMMP salutes their efforts and hopes to help build continued opposition in Japan against the dolphin hunts, especially with the media pressure that will ensue around the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.




KEY: Species: 2018-19 Quota  / 2017-18 Actually Killed or Taken Captive


Striped: 450 / 288 (4 for captivity)

Bottlenose: 414 / 25 (All for captivity)

Spotted: 400 / 0

Risso’s: 251 / 181 (24 for captivity)

Pacific White-sided: 134 / 19 (All for captivity)

Pilot Whale: 101 / 35 (3 for captivity)

False Killer Whale: 70 / 0

Rough-toothed: 20 / 28 (24 for captivity)

Melon-headed Whale: 200 / 144 (8 for captivity)

Totals: 2,040 / 722 (107 for captivity)    


(Source:  Ceta Base  )