Expert dismayed at Orcas’ condition

Dr. Paul Spong, a Canadian specialist on killer whales, expressed concern and dismay about the condition of five whales captured in Wakayama Prefecture last month.

Spong was speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, together with representatives of Japanese NGOs, after submitting a joint request to the Environment Agency. In the request, the groups asked the government to stop viewing sea mammals, especially whales, merely as a resource, to shift jurisdiction from the Fisheries Agency to the Environment Agency and to undertake comprehensive surveys to put species on the endangered list when they become rare. “It was a big disappointment for me that none (of the aquariums or their staff) were willing to discuss the situation,” said Spong, who came to Japan to look into the fate of the five Orcas captured on Feb. 7 in Taichi, Wakayama Prefecture, and sold to three aquariums.

Spong expressed concern about reports that the whales have refused to eat since being captured 42 days ago and that one of them may be pregnant, saying that offspring born to a whale captured when pregnant has never survived in captivity. In addition to the five captive whales, Spong said he fears for the other whales that were left behind when the five were captured because Orcas live in family groups throughout their lives, as well as the whale population as a whole.

Representatives of Japanese NGOs said they could not understand why, if aquariums did acquire the whales for research rather than business purposes, as they contend, they have refused to meet with Spong, one of the world’s foremost experts on killer whales. Spong said he “is encouraging the aquariums and government to do more research and return the captive whales to the wild.” He believes the government is really starting to consider the ramifications of its actions and hopes it will realize the opportunity it has to release the captured whales and gain international acclaim.