Taiji fishermen carry on with dolphin hunt


The port of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture is going ahead with its annual dolphin hunt even after an Australian town suspended its sister-city ties because of the slaughter and a documentary that has focused attention on the seaside village.

The hunt, in which dolphins are caught at sea or corralled into coves and impaled, was to start Tuesday and last through February.

Hunting dolphins for food in Japan dates back as far as 9,000 years and the town’s hunt is legal under international and domestic law, according to the Web site operated by Taiji’s fishing association.

Taiji’s fishermen will go ahead with the hunt, an official with the association who declined to give his name said last week.

Worldwide attention on Taiji increased with the release this summer of “The Cove,” a U.S. documentary that shows the dolphin cull through footage shot with hidden cameras.

The council of Broome, a town in northwestern Australia that has had formal ties with Taiji for 28 years, voted last month to suspend the relationship “while the practice of harvesting dolphins exists.”

Taiji government spokesman Hironobu Ryono said Monday he couldn’t comment on the relationship with Broome because the Australian town hasn’t informed him of the change.

The connection between the towns goes back to the 19th century, when pearl divers from Taiji emigrated to Broome, according to Ryono.

“My understanding is that our fishermen are preparing for the hunt this season, and I haven’t heard that there is any change in plans,” Ryono said.

According to the Fisheries Agency, 1,623 dolphins were killed in 2007 in Wakayama, the second-highest number in Japan after Iwate Prefecture.

Eight prefectures are permitted to hunt dolphins, with the number killed targeted at around 20,000 annually, according to the agency.