Taiji dolphin culls dealt setback


Special To The Japan Times

The world’s leading zoo organization last week announced it has lost patience with Japan’s continued use of dolphins from the fisheries drives at Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, and suspended its Japanese member from its roster.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has made numerous attempts to stop Japanese aquariums from taking cetaceans from the Taiji drives, which are undertaken for several months each fall and frequently garner international criticism.

As recently as last summer, WAZA officials made an appeal in Tokyo, recommending its Japanese member implement a two-year moratorium on member organizations taking from the drives. The issue was discussed again during WAZA’s annual international conference in November.

While the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) has since proposed restrictions on the method of capturing dolphins, it has not restricted its members from taking animals from the drive, WAZA said.

“WAZA council concluded that a satisfactory agreement could not be reached and voted to suspend the Japanese association’s membership,” said Hyatt Antognini Amin, a WAZA spokesman. “The council also reaffirmed its position that WAZA members must confirm they will not acquire dolphins from the Taiji fishery.”

The governing body of zoos worldwide requires “all members to adhere to policies that prohibit participating in cruel and nonselective methods of taking animals from the wild.”

The dolphin hunts were brought to international attention in 2009 following the release of “The Cove,” a documentary that went on to win a best Oscar gong in 2010. In recent years, the killing activities have been shielded from public view.

The Taiji culls are widely considered to be both cruel and selective. The method used involves banging metal pipes underwater from fishing boats to confuse the animals’ sensitive sonar.

Species more prized as “show dolphins” for aquariums, which can fetch tens of thousands of dollars, are trapped in nets, while the remainder are impaled with metal spears behind the blowhole to sever the spinal cord.

In 2010, a Japanese study claimed this method was more humane than the more random hurling of harpoons from fishing boats employed previously in Taiji’s drive hunts. In 2013, however, a study by scientists in Britain and the U.S. refuted those claims, saying that analysis of the method showed it failed to “fulfill the internationally recognized requirement for immediacy.”

JAZA’s Kensho Nagai said the organization has explained its “circumstances” in some detail, but WAZA “has not been able to fully comprehend them.”

“The method being employed in Japan to catch dolphins is recognized by the Japanese government and it is from places following government-ratified fishing methods that aquariums are buying dolphins,” Nagai said.

The method used to catch dolphins that are used in aquariums and zoos nationwide is very different than the one used to catch dolphins that are used for food, he added. “Despite this,” he said, “the two methods are seen as being one and the same thing.”

Dolphins fished for aquariums “are handled with extreme care” and “are exposed to zero stress” by the Taiji fishermen, Nagai said.

WAZA failed to respond to a request for comment on Nagai’s claims.

What impact the suspension will have is uncertain, especially due to a seeming lack of concern about the Taiji drives in Japan.

Toshiaki Morioka, a member of nongovernment organization Action For Marine Mammals, said “most Japanese don’t know the facts” about the slaughters.

“If they did, I think most would be against it,” Morioka said. “It is symbol of a pathology in Japanese society that this news is rarely mentioned in the Japanese media.”

Morioka says JAZA ignores the global trend to reduce numbers of both dolphins and aquariums, but hopes the suspension will serve as a wake-up call for JAZA to reconsider the way the animals are handled, distributed and sold.

Asked if JAZA would consider pushing member aquariums to purchase dolphins from places other than Taiji, Nagai pointed to a dearth of alternatives.

“The chances of that happening are next to zero,” he said.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Good. Japan deserves to be ostracized for its conduct. If it cannot behave like a civilized nation, Western countries have no choice but to exclude it from world bodies such as these.

  • Hendrix

    it’s about time Japan had its free pass revoked, not just on whaling and dolphin slaughters but many other things too, which are a bit long to go into right now, but at least this is a good start..

  • Karina1

    Japan needs to understand they appear to the world as a rogue nation when it comes to killing whales and dolphins. Maybe they do not care but the rest of the world does.

  • Satin

    Nagai you expose dolphins and whales to stress from the time the pods are located! You obviously do not understand the meaning of humane. The world has spoken. We are not going to stop exposing your greed and cruelty.

  • Julian Garrett

    Dolphins fished for aquariums “are handled with extreme care” and “are
    exposed to zero stress” by the Taiji fishermen, Nagai said.

    Kindof misses the point really – they are not goldfish you know…

  • http://wetgoddess.net/ Malcolm J. Brenner

    JAZA’s Kensho Nagain must think we’re stupid to believe him when he gives this quote: Dolphins fished for aquariums “are handled with extreme care” and “are exposed to zero stress” by the Taiji fishermen, Nagai said.
    In reality, the same techniques are used, terror and brutality. The only difference is the non-lethal climax. But the dolphin hunters are all too happy to separate a mother from her offspring, as they did with the baby albino dolphin Angel two years ago. Given that the meat obtained from the hunts is polluted, one wonders what stubborn streak of misguided national pride drives these abominable drive hunts.

  • koumin tan

    European act as if they are more civilized than Asian. This is another typical hypocrite and racist act by European over Asian. It was American brought killing and eating cow to Japan not long ago. Japanese looked down and thought American are animal for killing and eating Cow. It was same American and other European taught to Japanese that for eating, it was OK. Japanese eat dolphin, horse, and whale for century. Yet European and American condemns Japanese for doing the same. Same ignorant European and American accuse Chinese for eating shark fin and many other animals by saying uncivilized and unacceptable. Same for Korean eating dog for hundred of years which American always makes racist remark about it. It is about time Asian citizen stand up and tell European and American uncivilized and uneducated selfish animals enough and shut up. Asian has longer history than any of these western who should be looked down by us now!

  • koumin tan

    All these cow and pig eating celebrities please fix your own nation killing millions of cow and pig before asking others.

  • Anne

    Japan has no shame, no principles, no good morals or discipline but they expect to be respected whilst they brutally slaughter these highly intelligent mammals for fertiliser and mercury laden feed! These dolphins dont belong to them, they are nothing but high seas raiders!!