Reader Mail

Keeping dolphins and whales

Regarding Rob Gilhooly’s July 26 article, “Japan bucks trend: Captive dolphin biz big“: I cannot agree with the opinion of Sakae Hemmi of the Elsa Nature Conservancy that the reduction of dolphins in captivity is the international trend. This trend is a current fashion of Western culture only. We must respect the culture of each people in the world.

Japanese people now enjoy visiting many aquariums in which whales and dolphins are kept alive and perform wonderful shows, the result of training in the facilities. Japanese people learn about marine life and ecosystems in the facilities. Thus, anti-whaling ideas have not been brought into those parts of Japan where whales and dolphins are close to people’s lives.

Whale-watching and swimming with dolphins have been recommended by anti-whaling groups, but the people who can enjoy such an activity are limited to healthy younger generations. Children, disabled people and the elderly in countries that do not have such facilities are not happy about not being given the chance to visit aquariums where they can observe and enjoy live dolphins and whales. Such facilities help in the rehabilitation of disabled people and in the rescue of stranded dolphins.

Whales and dolphins are kept healthy in Japanese aquariums, as they receive great care from trainers and veterinarians. The reason these undertakings have been successful is the dolphin drive fishery, which supplies living whales and dolphins to aquariums internationally as well as domestically. The fishery has thus contributed to the welfare of people in countries where whales and dolphins are kept in aquariums.

As dolphin specialist Shuhei Hasegawa, manager of Minami Chita Beachland in Nagoya, explained in the article, the catch of whales and dolphins that are not subject to the International Convention for Regulation of Whaling is regulated by local governments under the auspices of the Fisheries Agency. The catch quota for each dolphin species is set according to population research by the National Research Laboratory of Far Seas Fisheries.

If Japan is called a “developing country” by some people in developed countries just because it keeps whales and dolphins in aquariums, we’re content with such criticism, for we take pride in living closely with whales and dolphins.

seiji ohsumi
institute of cetacean research
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.