Two aquariums in Japan said they have canceled their memberships with the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums due to its decision to forbid the acquisition of dolphins caught through controversial drive hunts off the town of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture.
Enoshima Aquarium in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Shimonoseki Marine Science Museum Kaikyokan, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, said Sunday that they withdrew from JAZA on Friday because of their opposition to the decision, which was made in May 2015.
JAZA banned members from acquiring Taiji dolphins after the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums urged it not to take animals caught in drive hunts amid international criticism that the practice is cruel and threatened it with expulsion from the global body.
The decision left the 89 zoos and 63 aquariums in JAZA no choice but to stop buying dolphins from Taiji.
Enoshima Aquarium said it withdrew to maintain ties with the local fishermen’s union in Taiji, allowing it to continue research on cetacean breeding there. Shimonoseki Kaikyokan said it cannot accept JAZA’s decision because it believes drive hunts are a legitimate practice.
Despite now being able to acquire dolphins from Taiji, neither aquarium said it had any immediate plans to do so.
“We are sorry to hear that the aquariums are withdrawing their membership,” a JAZA official said.
“There are ways to breed and we have been focusing on promoting such methods at our study sessions,” the official said of the aquarium’s reasoning.
A whale museum in Taiji withdrew from JAZA in September 2015 over the ban.
In making the decision, JAZA said that although it believes the drive hunting of dolphins isn’t cruel, it will shift its focus to breeding dolphins in captivity.
The international body suspended JAZA’s membership in April 2015 for violating its Code of Ethics and Animal Welfare and said it would expel the Japanese body unless the situation was rectified by May that year. JAZA’s members voted 99 to 43 to remain in the world body
If expelled, zoos and aquariums in Japan would have had difficulty gaining international cooperation on breeding rare animals, among other issues.
But remaining in the global body and halting the acceptance of Taiji dolphins has proved problematic for aquariums that are unable to breed their own.