40 bottlenose dolphins killed in Japan as part of annual cultural hunting fest

Wednesday, 22 January 2014 - 4:42am IST Updated: Wednesday, 22 January 2014 - 4:54am IST | Agency: dna webdesk


The local fishermen of Taiji in Japan killed about 40 bottlenose dolphins this Tuesday as part of their so called ‘annual cultural hunting fest’, from a group of about 250 dolphins that were captured in a cove earlier. And if the anti-whaling activists group, Sea Shepherd, is to be believed, this was the biggest hunt in the last four years. 

Of the 250 dolphins that were culled into a cove last Friday, 52 including a rare albino calf and its mother were selected to be sold later by the fishermen to aquariums and water parks. 

The local fishermen claim that the hunting of the dolphins is a local ritual followed since years and an important source of meat to feed their poor families. The activists have rubbished the claims stating that the drive hunts have only began as recently as 1969, which can be found in the town’s written history. 

The activists also point to the fact that the local fishermen make about US$ 200,000 per dolphin by selling them and hence there is no question of them being poor and needing the meat to feed their families. Another interesting fact highlighted is that the dolphins are unsafe for human consumption with their meat being up to 5000 times more toxic than allowed by the World Health Organization. 

Japanese fishermen drove a large group of dolphins into the shallows and killed at least 30 on Tuesday, hiding themselves behind a tarpaulin, as the annual dolphin hunt entered its final stages. Photo: Adrian Mylne, Reuters

Why the hunting is being labeled “inhumane”? 

Local fishermen capture these mammals for several days before driving metal rods into their spinal cords and leaving them to die, which may take about 20 to 30 minutes as the dolphins die either due to suffocation, drowning or bleeding. 

US’s ambassador to Tokyo, Caroline Kennedy tweeted out opposing the hunting, expressing “deep concern” and calling the drive hunt dolphin killing as inhumane. 

Yoko Ono, a Japanese artist and campaigner for peace, also called out to the Taiji fishermen to abandon the practice stating that it’s harming Japan’s reputation and may negatively impact its relations with the other countries. 

Interestingly, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary has defended the act, stating that it’s traditional and perfectly within the laws of the country. He was also quick to point out that dolphins were neither endangered nor included in the International Whaling Commissions list of sea animals banned from hunting. 

For those not familiar with the bottlenose dolphins:

They are the most common type of dolphins and are said to be very intelligent. They are used for various purposes from entertainment in aquarium shows to detecting sea mines or enemy divers in the sea. They also sometimes work with fishermen by driving fish into their nets and eating those that escape. 

The dolphins search for their prey using sonar-like technique called echolocation, in which they emit a clicking sound using the return echoes to locate their prey. They also use the sound for communication with each other which is supported by other sounds including squeaks, whistles and other sounds emitted by slapping their tails on the surface of the water. 

Of the many dolphins captured this year, one white albino was spotted by activists. Albino dolphins are the rarest and are usually captured and sold to marine parks.

Social media and offline protests to save the dolphins of Taiji

Environmental activists doning dolphin costumes take part in a protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Manila. Photo: Ted Aljibe, AFP

For years, environmental actvisists have been protesting against the Taiji hunt. This year, the campaigners went big on social media too. Hashtags like #tweet4taiji and #HelpCoveDolphins are being used to share news, and awareness.

Actress Kirstie Alley tweeted Saturday evening: "Dear Japan, how could such a stunning, brilliant, gorgeous country allow the bloody injustices of THE COVE? Please reign in your murderers."

Besides this, several petitions are being circulated. One such petition started by the SaveJapanDolphins.org group and addressed to World Association for Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Executive Director, Gerald Dick has collected 119,823 signatures so far. It reads:

The World Association for Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the world's largest network of zoos and aquariums around the world. Some members of the international aquarium and zoo industry are strongly connected to the Japanese dolphin slaughter, in that they pay top dollar for dolphins deemed suitable for commercial exploitation in dolphin shows and captive dolphin swim programs. In Taiji, live bottlenose dolphins have been sold for as much as $154,000. The dolphin massacres in Japan will continue for as long as members of the international dolphin display industry reward the fishermen with thousands of dollars for animals that are deemed suitable for commercial exploitation in captivity. Send WAZA a letter urging them to enforce their Code of Ethics and expel the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) from their organization. Furthermore, WAZA must expel all other facilities that have purchased dolphins from the dolphin drive hunts.

Do let us know your thoughts on the annual hunt drive by the local fishermen of Taiji, Japan. Do you think the international community should come together to put pressure on Japan to ban it? Let us know in comments below. 

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