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What Are the Alternatives for Taiji?

| Mark J. Palmer

The Save Japan Dolphins Campaign of the International Marine Mammal Project is not simply calling on the Japanese government to stop the killing of dolphins. 

Our organization also has many positive things to offer the Japanese fishermen and the local government. Our efforts are unique, in that we believe that ending dolphin killing will generate greater benefits for the Japanese people in both the short and long term. We are not just saying “no”.

The Save Japan Dolphins Campaign can offer:

** Support to the fishermen during a transition away from killing dolphins: In our talks with the local Taiji fishermen, when we asked them what they would do if the killing of dolphins were to be outlawed, they said they would return to fishing for lobsters and crabs. Fewer than 100 people are engaged in the dolphin killing drives in Taiji. There are many ways our Save Japan Dolphins Campaign could help during a transition period.

** Tourism and promotion: Taiji is a spectacular location for tourism. There are many attractions there, such as the beautiful scenic ocean, dramatic rugged coast, and imposing mountains that offer recreational opportunities including hiking, nature watching, camping, fishing and boating. The area also boasts some of the most historic and beautiful religious shrines and temples in Japan. Far more people in Taiji work for the tourist industry than in the dolphin-killing industry and would benefit enormously from positive publicity for their town as a tourist destination. It would be of tremendous benefit for Taiji to renounce dolphin killing, for which it is now internationally notorious, and embrace eco-friendly tourism. The world would beat a path to their doorsteps, and the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign, which has an international breadth and depth, could help by promoting Taiji worldwide as a tourist destination.

** Whale- and Dolphin-watching: Watching wild whales and dolphins is very popular throughout out the world and is a growing industry in Japan.

As an example, we met in the coastal town of Futo with Mr. Ishii, who used to kill dolphins but now runs successful dolphin- and whale-watching cruises on his boat. No dolphins have been killed in Futo since 2004.

For more about the story of Mr. Ishii and his whale- and dolphin-watching tours, see this video by our colleague, Hardy Jones of Blue Voice:

Our organization has substantial experience in developing profitable whale- and dolphin-watching excursions. Mr. Ishii is willing to share his expertise in transitioning from dolphin killing to running dolphin-watching enterprises which could be used by the fishermen of Taiji and other areas of Japan to replace the killing of dolphins. They would soon learn, as many others have, that whales and dolphins are worth more alive than dead.

** Sustainable fishing: The Japanese Fisheries Agency has told the Taiji fishermen that the whales and dolphins are eating their fish, which is why fisheries have declined. This is untrue. Not only do such myths harm whales and dolphins, but also the root causes of overfishing and pollution are ignored, to the ultimate destruction of the fishing industry itself. Our Campaign and our colleagues have expertise in developing truly sustainable methods of fishing that help protect fish stocks and the environment while providing long-term economic benefits to the fishermen.

The Save Japan Dolphins Campaign of IMMP offers these positive approaches in the hopes that, as with many other countries that have experience in ending whale and dolphin hunting, these alternatives can be successfully employed in Japan.

Photo credit Oceanic Preservation Society.