Dolphin Hunt in Taiji Prompts Review by Japan Aquariums

A demonstrator holds a placard during a rally in London to protest Taiji’s annual slaughter of dolphins in January.
A demonstrator holds a placard during a rally in London to protest Taiji’s annual slaughter of dolphins in January.

The Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums said it will decide later this month whether to continue collecting dolphins that are caught through a hunting practice known as drive fishery after an international zoo organization suspended its membership because of the practice.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums on April 22 said it halted Japan’s membership in an unanimous vote. It said the Japanese group failed to meet the world association’s standards, which prohibit “cruel and nonselective methods of taking animals from the wild.”

In drive fishery, dolphins are collectively herded into shallow water with multiple boats. Fishermen pound on metal poles to disorient the dolphins, which are sensitive to sound. Some are captured for exhibition at aquariums or to be trained, while others are slaughtered and processed for their meat.

The annual hunting has gathered international attention in recent years, especially after “The Cove,” a documentary film depicting the hunt in the city of Taiji in western Japan, won the 2010 Academy Award.

According to the Japanese association, approximately 20 dolphins caught during the Taiji hunt end up being sent each year to aquariums for exhibition. A spokesman for the association said the dolphins are caught legally under Japanese law and those destined for aquariums are captured in a way that avoids harm to the animals.

The spokesman said that while large-sized aquariums are able to breed dolphins on their own, that is not the case for other smaller institutions. But the organization will ask its 153 members whether they should continue relying on drive fishery to secure the mammals.

The world group has about 50 members including the U.S. Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has defended Taiji’s dolphin hunt, saying it is “deeply rooted” in the local culture. Meanwhile U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy expressed her opposition last year, tweeting that the U.S. government is opposed to drive hunt fisheries.


Source: Wall Street Journal

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