Taiji plans park to swim with, not spear, dolphins


The town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, made infamous by the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” about its annual dolphin slaughter, will open a marine mammal park where visitors can swim with dolphins, but will not end its annual kill, an official said Monday.

The town has begun researching a plan to section off part of a cove and turn it into a place where people can swim and kayak alongside small whales and dolphins, Masaki Wada said.

But, Wada insisted, far from having caved in to pressure from conservationists who want an end to the annual cull that turns the waters red with blood, the project was aimed at helping to sustain the practice.

“We already use dolphins and small whales as a source of tourism in the cove where dolphin-hunting takes place,” he said.

“In the summer, swimmers can enjoy watching the mammals that are released from a partitioned-off space,” he said.

“But we plan to do it on a larger scale. This is part of Taiji’s long-term plan of making the whole town a park, where you can enjoy watching marine mammals while tasting various marine products, including whale and dolphin meat,” he said.

The park will be separate from Hatakejiri Bay, the place into which the fishermen of Taiji corral the dolphins, select a few dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks, and stab the rest to death for meat.

The plan calls for the creation of a whale amusement park stretching roughly 28 hectares by putting up a net at the entrance to Moriura Bay in northwestern Taiji, the official said.

The 2009 film “The Cove” brought Taiji to worldwide attention, winning an Oscar the following year, after graphically showing the killing, including by using underwater cameras. Activists continue to visit the town to protest the slaughter.

Taiji, in western Wakayama Prefecture, is looking to open part of the park within five years, Wada said.

Black whales and bottlenose dolphins caught near the town would be released into the pool, which would be developed as a nature park that also includes beaches and mud flats, he said.

  • phu

    This seems a bit nuts. Almost the entire world decries this practice. They’re not stopping, but they are going to… direct more attention to it with a theme park? Whoever’s running this PR campaign probably out to be replaced.

    • jerseydave

      Why replace them if it works? It is targeted at the domestic audience, not foreign ones. Not saying dolphin killing is great, I think it is horrible, but not counting their local feelings is a mistake.

      By the way, making something an “Us vs. Them” is the worst possible way to get a Japanese person to negotiate. Just an observation. This could be embraced as a step towards changing things with a little creativity, the Japanese are actually going halfway. Cooperation will get them the rest of the way faster than hitting them will.

  • Shuami

    I think this is a win-win solution for everyone. The revenue gained from this can hopefully supplement the loss by foregoing the killing of dolphins for meat.

    • Sam

      Did you read the article? They said they aren’t stopping the killing.
      They’re going to spare a few to sell to aquarium (which will pay far more than anyone will for dolphin meat) and slaughter the rest.

      • Shuami

        Gee. my bad. Should have read it through but I was assuming they would stop the killing, or at least ween off the practice, with an alternative source for income. Now I really don’t get why these people are so sneaky and stubborn about these dolphin killing practice.

      • jerseydave

        It is a step towards change, but they are doing it _their way._

  • alain

    dolphins should swim into the wild, in oceans , not in a park. period . Like whales should swim in the southern ocean marine reserve. Period

  • Tracy Dunham

    People don’t want to interact with tuna or trout, they want to experience an encounter with a mammal that is intelligent and capable of communicating. What I find incomprehensible is how the Japanese tourists can pay to be entertained by these majestic creatures then eat them! Sometimes at the same venue! The Japanese fishermen are fully aware that the mammals the are stabbing to death also fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars because of their capability to communicate and learn from humans. How can you spend a day training dolphins then feed them to your family for dinner? Culture cannot explain this. I think of these men and women stabbing the life out of the dolphins and at the same time picking the most beautiful specimen for training. I would think that you would have to be a type of psychopath to be able to process that. I also think that while so much hate is directed to the fishermen and government officials who have this capability, I think it scares some people that there are humans so evil.

    • Mike Wyckoff

      I doubt they are training the ones they eat, that would just be a waste of time… :/

  • Digger

    Shuami, read the article again. They’re going to continue to kill dolphins. And they want to sell the meat in restaurants to people to eat after they finish watching the dolphin show.

    • Shuami

      Yes, indeed. I guess I didn’t read the article through but just naturally assumed that (i.e. stop killing dolphins for meat) would be what the residents at Tajii would do (now that they would have a source for alternative income).

      I was of the belief that what people put on their dinner tables are their business, as long as they are not infringing laws. However I then read a post in which somebody quoted this from Gandhi:
      “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
      And I totally agree with that. All societies progress toward a more universally accepted values. Some people are holding tight to these old practice and values in face of global condemnation with a determination and cunningness that is freightening.

  • Paul

    This headline is deceiving. They plan on swimming with AND spearing dolphins.

  • JoAnne Gilmore

    As life goes on, I see humans as not only a threat to the planet, and other life on it . But a threat to themselves ! As said ” with every action , comes a reaction ” ! We will pay for our need for greed ! ! !