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SeaWorld Connects to Taiji Through Association of Trainers

| Allison Huey
Topics: Captivity Industry, Dolphin and Whale Trade, Slaughter, Taiji, Japan

Join us for the IMATA Protest in San Diego:

Sunday, November 13, 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Bahia Resort Hotel - 998 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego


SeaWorld and other aquariums claim to oppose the Japan dolphin drive hunts and slaughter.  But they have a major link to the slaughter via the dolphin trainers’ Association.

The International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA), a professional network of marine mammal trainers from around the world, has long purported to be a cornerstone organization for encouraging the humane care, training, and treatment of marine mammals. According to their mission statement, the organization claims to be “dedicated to providing and advancing the most professional, effective, and humane care of marine animals in all habitats.”  The “habitats” of course, mean concrete tanks.

However, it is clear that their claims are not truly the case, as IMATA is laden with hypocritical claims, particularly with regards to dolphin drive hunt fisheries.

In July 2013, IMATA issued a statement regarding their stance on dolphin drive hunts, stating that it “strongly opposes the mass slaughter of whales and dolphins that occur in drive fisheries, and is dedicated to advancing humane care of marine animals in zoological settings.” However, they actively acknowledge that a number of their members participate in selecting animals from drive hunts for captivity, and refuse to blacklist such trainers from membership.

The sale of captive wild dolphins from Taiji is a major subsidy of the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji.  A dolphin may be sold for $500US to $600US for the meat, but a trained dolphin can bring more than $150,000 on the world aquarium market.  It is likely if aquariums refused to buy dolphins from Taiji that the hunts would end.

This lack of concern for IMATA members choosing, buying, and catching dolphins in Taiji for captivity is highly hypocritical, suggesting that IMATA does not hold its members to its own claimed standards. While IMATA argues that they are being impartial and open to all animal training professionals, they fail to acknowledge the role they play in continuing the demand for such dolphin slaughters.

Drive hunts like the Taiji slaughter are now driven by the captivity industry, and the methods of capturing, selecting, and killing dolphins is highly traumatizing and violent. In Taij, dolphins are herded into a small netted off bay by fishermen loudly banging on long poles, disorienting the highly sound-sensitive animals. Once netted, the dolphins are held until the ideal animals (usually young female bottlenose dolphins) are selected by trainers for a life in captivity.

The remaining dolphins are then brutally slaughtered using highly inhumane methods. Many animals will suffer for long periods of time before finally dying. Others will entangle themselves in the nets and drown. The entire process is extremely traumatizing, both for the animals killed as well as those captured.

Similar to IMATA, SeaWorld also claims to be against such drive hunt fisheries. However, many of IMATA’s members are SeaWorld trainers, including several current IMATA committee chair members employed by SeaWorld. While SeaWorld itself may not be selecting animals from drive hunts, their employees actively engage with facilities that do, all through IMATA. This year SeaWorld itself will be hosting the annual 2016 IMATA Conference in San Diego, CA.

Despite their claims, neither IMATA nor SeaWorld have truly taken a strong stand against drive hunts. Both could be highly influential in ceasing such inhumane practices, but instead issue half-hearted statements of opposition while continuing to silently support them and their participants.

It’s time both IMATA and SeaWorld owned up to this hypocrisy, ending the memberships of trainers that select animals from drive hunts.


What You Can Do:

*COME JOIN Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project team members to spotlight SeaWorld’s duplicitous involvement in the Taiji, Japan drive hunts. 

Sunday, November 13, 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Bahia Resort Hotel - 998 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego

Look for our large inflatable blue dolphin with Out of Taiji banner, and introduce yourself so we can welcome you!