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< Fighting To Protect Dolphins Documents Brutal Slaughter of Dolphins in Japan and the Tie to the Dolphin Captivity Industry

Beginning in October each year a small number of fishermen in villages such as Taiji, Japan begin to hunt dolphins. The hunt continues through the end of February for dolphins and continues through April for small whales.

More than twenty thousand dolphins are killed each year in Japan - a process sanctioned by the Japanese government. Approximately 18,000 Dall's porpoise are killed in the waters of northern Japan for meat. Over 2,000 dolphins are killed in the cove at Hatajiri Bay in Taiji for meat and to provide dolphins for aquariums and swim-with programs. Fishermen drive the dolphins into the bay, separate the number contracted by dolphin buyers, then butcher the rest in a manner brutal beyond description.

Killing dolphins for meat is not only an outrageous act, the high level of toxins in dolphin meat makes it dangerous for human consumption. And, from a monetary standpoint, the profits on the sale of dolphin meat are often marginal. But the increase in demand for live dolphins, captured and shipped to aquariums and swim-with programs, has created a huge incentive for fishermen to step-up the dolphin drives which result in so may brutal deaths.

BlueVoice executive director Hardy Jones, often accompanied by board member and marine conservationist Larry Curtis and Japanese environmentalist Sakae Hemmi, has worked to end this killing for more than twenty years. There has been much success. Now only one village regularly hunts dolphins --Taiji. We monitor other villages to make certain hunting does not begin again.

The explosion of protest around the world against the brutality of dolphin hunting in Japan has had enormous impact on the Japanese government and the fishermen who conduct it.

Traveling into these villages where the dolphins are killed is always a heart-wrenching thing. But some good news came out of our trip -- there is not the slightest doubt that the explosion of protest around the world against the brutality of dolphin hunting in Japan has had enormous impact on the Japanese government and the fishermen who conduct it. At both Futo and Taiji we were told the same thing -- that foreign reaction is the main obstacle to the continued dolphin killing and that the fishermen fear the government will shut them down to avoid further international protest. We learned that the government suggested Futo suspend dolphin hunting operations until the public loses track of this issue. We will make sure this does not happen.

Again I stress, that from the fishermen's own mouths we heard without any equivocation that foreign pressure may ultimately shut down the dolphin capture and slaughter operations.

The bad news is that at Taiji there is a firm intention to continue the catch of dolphins and small whales. At Futo there is some dissent among the fishermen as to whether to continue hunting dolphins, but there is a government quota for several species and the head of the fishing cooperative told us they expect to begin hunting again. We must be on hand with cameras.

Additional bad news is that the dolphin capture and export business in Japan has expanded into an assembly line process. There are two dolphin bases in Taiji and a new one at Iki. Dolphins are literally "packaged" for export - i.e. they are captured, trained and exported, accompanied by a trainer who introduces the dolphin into the new facility. A formidable dolphin packaging infrastructure has developed at Taiji, which contributes to the continuation of the slaughter of hundreds of dolphins in that village alone.

It is not the Japanese people who are committing these atrocities. But the Japanese government does support this business

The first thing that is crucial to dealing with the horror of the dolphin killing in Japan is to be absolutely clear that it is not the Japanese people who are committing these atrocities. But the Japanese government does support this business as well as whaling. And American and other foreigners are complicit in these slaughters.

What drives the killings and training/export business is the explosion of demand for dolphins for swim-with programs and for dolphinaria around the world, particularly in Asian nations. When people swim with the always "smiling" dolphins or see them in shows jumping through burning hoops, they should know these dolphins are often survivors of the brutal drive fisheries in Japan in which dozens or hundreds of their pod mates have been killed.

The films and videos which Blue Voice has brought out of Japan have without question slowed and, in some cases, halted the dolphin slaughters. The film we took of the slaughter of more than 900 dolphins in 1980 is still considered at Iki to have subjected the island to tremendous shame and loathing from the outside world that brought disgrace upon Japan. This footage caused a cessation of dolphin capture and killing for more than a decade, until agents for dolphinaria came to Iki and put money on the table for live dolphins. That motivated a drive for dolphins and the slaughter began again. A small number of young dolphins were shipped off to dolphinaria. All others captured were killed.

"When I was at Iki in 1994 Mr. Harada Susumu, a man I've known for twenty years, indicated they would no longer capture dolphins but the dolphinaria are insatiable in their demands for dolphins and a retailer has now set up business on Iki." says Hardy Jones. "I am saddened to learn that the fishermen at Iki have revived the grizzly business and we will return there in the fall of 2005 to document what is happening."


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