Five aquariums may quit association over Taiji dolphin ban

Kyodo

Five of 34 aquariums that rear dolphins say they may leave the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums in light of its decision last week to prohibit them from acquiring animals caught during annual slaughters at Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture.

Two more aquariums said they will quit JAZA in the future, according to a Kyodo News survey conducted Friday and Saturday.

The association made the decision in the face of an expulsion threat from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which views the hunts as cruel.

The survey also found that 16 aquariums plan to remain JAZA members, seven are undecided and four declined to answer. Of the 34 dolphin-rearing facilities, at least 19 rely on Taiji as a supplier. JAZA members buy about 20 to 30 dolphins from the town each year, according to the body.

Dolphins bred in captivity represent only around 12 to 13 percent of those in Japanese zoos and aquariums, compared with about 70 percent in the United States, partly because of a lack of sufficient breeding facilities, JAZA said.

Because dolphins typically live for about 30 years, some aquariums could eventually face difficulty because they may not be able to find alternative sources to keep their shows running.

Some aquariums have had success breeding dolphins, and more than half of the 34 facilities said they plan to try, but they also cited difficulties such as a lack of expertise, breeding pools and male dolphins.

“Although more than 10 dolphins were born (via breeding), none of them grew up,” one respondent said.

“JAZA has abandoned the aquariums. If star dolphins disappear eventually and the number of customers falls by around 20 to 30 percent, bankruptcy will be inevitable,” one aquarium chief angrily said.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums plans to ask JAZA whether it has members who are willing to quit rather than cutting dolphin ties with Taiji.

A JAZA executive said there is a high possibility that some aquariums will eventually withdraw if they have no other way of obtaining new dolphins for their shows.

The five aquariums that are considering leaving are Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe in Hokkaido, Awashima Marine Park and Shimoda Sea Aquarium, both in Shizuoka, Taiji Whale Museum in Wakayama, and Oita Marine Palace Aquarium Umitamago in Oita.