WAKAYAMA – The whale museum in the town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, has withdrawn from the national aquarium industry body in protest at its ban on accepting dolphins captured in drive hunts, museum officials said Tuesday.
The Taiji Whale Museum, which keeps around 40 live dolphins and small whales, submitted the notice of withdrawal Friday to the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), the officials said.
JAZA had requested the move after the museum defied the ban and filed a dolphin purchase order with local fishermen.
The annual hunts in Taiji are notorious for turning the sea red with blood. Fishermen drive dolphins and other small cetaceans into a bay, where they are caught or slaughtered. The hunting method has sparked criticism in Japan and abroad.
The season for Taiji drive hunting, which is approved by the Wakayama Prefectural Government, started Sept. 1 with an annual quota set by the national government.
Although no catches have taken place so far this year, the museum has placed a dolphin purchase order to the Taiji fisheries association. That in itself led JAZA to ask the museum to withdraw from the group.
“We couldn’t narrow our differences,” said Kensho Nagai, a senior JAZA official. “It’s been some 40 years since the whale museum joined us, and we have worked together for the development of aquariums. It’s very regrettable.”
The museum said it will continue to obtain dolphins caught by drive hunts.
“We maintain our position that (the drive hunts) are conducted appropriately,” said Tetsuo Kirihata, deputy chief of the museum.
The ban was imposed after the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums threatened to expel JAZA from the worldwide body.