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- Update On Taiji Dolphin Slaughters -
March 5, 2002
Source: BlueVoice.Org

Return to Taiji and Futo, February, 2002
By: Hardy Jones

- Summary -

Our most recent visit to the coastal villages of Japan where dolphin killing takes place have yielded substantial results and promises of great change. At Taiji our video coverage has forced the fishermen to conduct dolphin kills at night so that no witnesses can record the brutal act. At Futo an official of the fishermen's union asked to help set up a dolphin watching program to replace dolphin hunting.


In 1999 video of a brutal slaughter of dolphins at Futo shocked the world and led to an avalanche of outrage against the Japanese government for permitting such atrocities. The foreign criticism produced shock and consternation at the Japan Fisheries Agency and at the local fishing cooperatives. They know that when westerners see scenes of such astonishing brutality many choose not to buy Japanese products. During the past two years there has been no hunting of dolphins at Futo. There is now a movement to make the suspension on dolphin hunting permanent.

This tendency is being supported by an extraordinary man at Futo - a man who used to hunt dolphins - but has now vowed he will never do it again. What Izumi Ishii now wants to do is set up a dolphin watching enterprise that will replace dolphin killing. This is an event with tremendous promise. will, of course, gladly support this enterprise. One of our first steps may be to bring a group of Americans to Japan to participate in the first dolphin watch. Let us know if you are interested.


The story from Taiji shows slower progress - but progress nonetheless. Our recon there in October '01 ended in videotaping the slaughter of some thirty pilot whales and with the fishermen subsequently attacking us (Larry Curtis, Sakae Fujiwara and myself) on the hill overlooking the bay. We filed charges against the fishermen with Japanese authorities. The case was investigated and the police in Shingu issued an admonition to the six fishing cooperatives which hunt dolphins in that area, warning that they cannot again attack foreigners. In the future we should be able to document the dolphin slaughters on video tape from a closer vantage point - a considerable deterrent to the killings.

Shortly after our October "dust-up", the fisheries agency issued new regulations regarding how the dolphin and small whale hunts may be carried out. Fishermen were told if they hunt dolphins they must conduct the kills in a manner which precludes any witnesses viewing any of the following: the killing of dolphins, cruelty to dolphins or large amounts of blood in the water. They also "recommend" that killing be carried out at night. (They obviously don't know about night vision cameras).

The combination of the injunction against harming us and the new regulations makes it more difficult and less cost effective for the fishermen to carry out the hunts on dolphins. Coupling these factors with growing awareness of the high levels of toxicity in whale and dolphin meat and falling prices for whale meat and I think we are seeing real progress.


Japanese environmental groups are working with growing success to get the word out that whale and dolphin meat contains illegal and harmful levels of toxins including mercury and other heavy metals and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

While proving the presence of high levels of contaminants in marine mammals may be helpful in ending the dolphin slaughters in Japan, we must all reflect on what a dreadful way this is to save dolphins and whales from slaughter - to publish the fact that they are so highly contaminated that in some places their bodies must be treated as toxic waste. Imagine the implications for our oceans, for our world, for our children.


During our most recent visit to Taiji (February 17 - 20) no killing took place. We did learn that a kill had taken place only three days before our arrival in Hatagiri Bay and we found about a dozen bottlenose dolphins confined in sea pens in the Taiji harbor. There had been none there during October so there have obviously been hunts on bottlenose dolphins since then. The dolphins we saw will be trained and shipped off the dolphinaria and dolphin swim-with programs sometime this spring.


Larry Curtis and I, ably assisted by our translator Don Baron, met with the head of the town council, Mr. Mihara. He was quite anxious to open a dialogue with us and very cordial in inviting us into his home. We had a long talk about western views, about the value of dolphins and the Japanese view that they are just another marine resource. While the gap between our perceptions of these creatures did not narrow, he was anxious to get the data on contamination in dolphin flesh. It is my hope that he takes the reports seriously and understands their implications for the health of anyone consuming dolphin meat. Mr. Mihara and I agreed we would meet in the near future to continue the discussion over dinner and perhaps some Sake. I must say it was gratifying to have such a friendly discussion in a town where so much brutality has taken place. While we often imagine all citizens of Taiji as a monolithic group, all of whom support the dolphin killing and therefore despise us, this is not the case. Most Citizens of Taiji are exceedingly courteous to us and by coming back again and again we are making friends. The chef and his wife at a red lantern (sake bar/restaurant) cook spectacular meals of grilled fish, thinly sliced raw scallops and many other delectable items and our enthusiasm for their cooking has created a very friendly atmosphere. We sometimes encounter retired whalers in this establishment, men who have whaled in the Antarctic and locally, and on this neutral ground we swap stories about the sea, albeit from very different perspectives. In summary, because of's continuing presence in the coastal villages of Japan, it is getting harder and harder for the fishermen to carry out their brutal dolphin killing business. With the price declines in whale and dolphin meat and the growing awareness of the contamination of cetacean meat there is a real possibility of severely curtailing the dolphin slaughters at Taiji. That being said, we must bear in mind that dolphins by the hundreds are still being brutally killed and continue our efforts to bring this ghastly business to a speedy end. We need your support to do this.