Japan aquariums vote to stop using dolphins from Taiji


Staff Writer

The Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums announced Wednesday that it will ban its members from buying dolphins caught off the town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, amid protests from activists and pressure from a global industry body to stop the practice.

JAZA reached the decision earlier in the day at an emergency board meeting where votes from all of its 152 members — 89 zoos and 63 aquariums — were counted.

Of them, 149 members voted. Of the 142 valid votes, 99 voted in favor of staying in the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) by stopping the purchase of dolphins from Taiji, while 43 voted against it. The breakdown of votes among zoos and aquariums was not made public.

“JAZA board decided that JAZA will prohibit its members to acquire wild dolphins caught by drive fishing in Taiji and to take part in their export and sale,” JAZA said in a statement addressed to WAZA. “It is our wish at JAZA to remain as a member of WAZA and thereby contribute for the zoos and aquariums.”

The Japanese group decided at the board meeting that it will express its wish to stay in the world body, and will stop procuring dolphins from drive fishing. It will also step up cooperation among member organizations to breed dolphins they keep, the group said.

However, JAZA Chairman Kazutoshi Arai told a news conference that the decision was on whether to stay in the world body, not on condemning or endorsing the fishery drives at Taiji, which is also known as a whaling town.

“We are not criticizing or condemning drive fishing at Taiji or the whaling culture,” he said. Arai added that the group’s position is that “the drive hunt itself is not cruel.”

Wednesday’s decision followed an April 22 announcement by the Switzerland-based world association that it had suspended JAZA’s membership on the grounds that it is unethical and an affront to animal welfare to obtain cetaceans from the Taiji drives.

The world governing body had given JAZA until Thursday to stop buying dolphins from Taiji, or face expulsion.

About 30 JAZA members have a total of roughly 250 dolphins in their facilities. While it is not known how many of these came from Taiji, Japanese aquariums have bought an average of 20 dolphins from the town every year, JAZA Secretary-General Naonori Okada has said.

The Japanese body’s decision to stay in the world governing body means JAZA members will remain connected to a global database of rare animals it maintains.

Without access to the database, JAZA members would have difficulty obtaining breeding partners from collections overseas.

But now that wild-caught dolphins from Taiji are off limits, aquariums in Japan will either need to expand their captive breeding programs or step up exchanges and breeding with dolphins kept by other institutions.

Members were allowed to cast ballots by email or fax until 5 p.m. Tuesday.

  • Yasmina

    Well this is progress, although they can’t admit the psychopathic nature of the drive hunts. We’ll take what we can get until ALL of our fellow beings are free.

    • Clickonthewhatnow

      Who are “our fellow beings”? Dolphins? Dolphins and whales? Any living animal used for food products or educational value in a zoo?

      • Yasmina

        All living beings. The lack of respect for our fellow LIVING beings will be our demise. There is no educational value in zoos that keep tigers in cages who are meant to roam free. That keep orcas in pools of water no bigger than a bath tub. It is man’s ego that leads him to believe he is superior and knows better. It is his ego that is destroying our earth. It is his ego that will be the ultimate demise of our planet. Anyone who believes that man is superior to other life forms is clearly dellusional and part of the problem.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Um, orcas couldn’t fit in a bathtub. There is undeniable educational value in zoos, as they allow children to see wildlife they wouldn’t otherwise be able to up close. What, would you have future generations relying on National Geographic and Wikipedia? Ridiculous.

      • SuzanneSmith

        What children/people see in Zoos is domination of other species and suffering imposed by humans. This has no educational value as to the true nature of these animals ………….as for how they look? Watch a video, visit a refuge, or look at a photo. It is more ridiculous to continue to harm these animals ……….”generations” would do well to learn about compassion and stop abuse that we’ve become far too numb to.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        There are zoos that do not harm, that do nothing but good for the animals there, despite your outrage.

      • SuzanneSmith


      • SuzanneSmith

        Our fellow beings are other sentient life forms. I’m sick of hearing about “educational value” which is all about us. Not to mention there is no educational value in gawking at imprisoned animals that are miserable. None.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        My daughter disagrees, but by all means…

  • Japan didn’t kill the dolphins at the cove. A few bad people did, to make Japan look bad.
    Dolphins hunt … and they euthanize their food humanely.

    Q: Whadya call a bad shark?
    A: Shark snacks.
    Q: Why not a full meal?
    A: Because an orca kept telling them not to eat it, it’s sludge filled, he had to euthanize his pony after that bad shark bit her.

    • SuzanneSmith

      The Japanese gov’t sanctions and protects these kills. As for the rest of your comment…………ridic

  • Liars N. Fools

    Japan once again acts out of external pressure 外圧 rather than internal morality. Great job!!!

    • SuzanneSmith

      Well said

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