Save Taiji Dolphins - end the annual drive fishery slaughter
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dolphin swimming -- Michesl S. Nolan photo
Breaking News

Press Release: The Okuwa Supermarket has announced that the ban on selling dolphin meat is now PERMANENT! …click to learn more.

Event Reports: Japan Dolphin Day, September 20th, 2006…click to learn more

Ric O’Barry Protests Dolphin Slaughter at Whaling Commission…click to learn more.

Letter from the president of WAZA about the drive fishery…click to learn more, OR download (.pdf, ~50k).

EII opens branch office in Honiara, Solomon Islands; click to learn more.

Press Release: Updated: New Solomon Islands Law Tightens Ban on Dolphin Trafficking …click to learn more, OR download a copy of the law (.pdf, ~20k).

Groups Vow to Stop Japan Dolphin Slaughter…click to learn more.

Memo Reveals Japan Aquarium Industry’s Secret Sponsorship of Dolphin Slaughter…click to learn more.

Japanese markets selling toxic dolphin meat from to learn more.

ABC’s news program PRIMETIME will featured a story on the killing of dolphins in Japan on October 27thclick to learn more.

Drive Fishery Animation — ©Tim Gorski, Rattle the Cage Productions
dolphin capture -- Elsa Nature Conservancy photo
 In the News

Japan Times 01/11: Mercury level acute; store pulls dolphin -
Meat sample from Okuwa chain contained levels 13.5 times state limit …click to learn more.

Dominican Today, 7 February 2007 – Dominican President will be asked to halt dolphin imports…click to learn more.

The Independent 14 January 2007 – £25,000: What brutal hunters in Japan charge for catching a dolphin …click to learn more.

The Independent, 6 January 2007 – Bloodbath: Japan's dolphin cull gets underway …click to learn more.

Animal People January 2007 – Mercury poisoning may save whales …click to learn more.

Interview: Ric O'Barry on Dolphins in Japan
"The Samurai Dolphin Man and the Japan Connection" click to learn more.

Animal People 10/06 editorial: Japan Dolphin Day…click to learn more.

Kansai Time Out 8/30/06:
The Good and Evil of Hunting Dolphins …click to learn more.

TIME magazine on captive dolphins in the Solomons …click to learn more

Japan Times Article: ‘Secret’ dolphin slaughter defies protestsclick to learn more. Now available in Japanese as a .pdf, ~250k.

Tokyo Shimbun Article: Aquarium Dolphin Capture Cruel?! In English and Japanese …click to learn more.

Advertisement, NY Times, 28 October 2005
Download a copy of page 13 of the New York Times, 28 October 2005 (.pdf, print version ~700k; screen version ~100k)
Help Stop the Largest and Cruelest Slaughter of Dolphins in the World!
save Japan’s dolphins

Dominican Republic to Import 12 "Show" Dolphins
from Japan's Secret Killing Cove - Aquarium Industry Implicated

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition denounces the proposed sale and transfer of twelve bottlenose dolphins from the secret Japanese killing coves to the Ocean World Adventure Park, a Dominican Republic amusement park. Two American aquarium specialists -- Dr. Michael Briggs and Dr. Ted Hammond - are brokering the sale and transfer of the twelve dolphins with the park's vice-president, Stephan Meister - a German National.

The Coalition broadcast-quality video footage (sample here) of the grossly inhumane, bloody capture of these same dolphins in Japan's waters in the port of Taiji. Japan kills over 20,000 dolphins and small whales annually, most of which wind up in meat markets. The dirty secret of the slaughter, however, is that the international aquarium industry subsidizes these massacres by paying upwards of US$45,000 for prime live specimens for aquariums, dolphin-shows and swim-with-dolphins programs. A dead dolphin sells for about US$600 on the market for meat.

UPDATE January 30, 2007

The Dominican Republic Natural History Association has joined our Save Japan Dolphins Coalition in denouncing the cruel capture of dolphins by Japan and is opposing the import of the 12 dolphins caught by Japan drive fisheries.

An open letter to the Dominican Republic President has been published in the newspaper, El Caribe Newspaper.

CORRECTION January 30, 2007

Correction: On January 4, 2007, and January 18, 2007, we released two Media Alerts with respect to a proposed shipment of dolphins from Japan's slaughter pens to the Dominican Republic. In those Media Alerts we erroneously stated that Dr. Michael Briggs is associated with the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. We have been informed by the Chicago Zoological Society and The Brookfield Zoo that Dr. Michael Briggs has not been associated with the Brookfield Zoo and has not worked on any projects with the Brookfield Zoo since April, 2004. Neither the Chicago Zoological Society nor the Brookfield Zoo are in any way involved with either the proposed transfer of dolphins from Japan or the egregious slaughter of those dolphins. We regret that our Media Alerts dated January 4, 2007 and January 18, 2007 contained that erroneous information and in any way suggested an association between Dr. Briggs and the Brookfield Zoo.

We request that you please correct any postings on this subject accordingly.

Read the original press release here.

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition is Earth Island Institute, Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, Animal Welfare Institute and In Defense of Animals.

To read earlier weblog entries, click here.

In the Japanese fishing village of Taiji, fishermen are rounding up and slaughtering hundreds and even thousands of dolphins right now.

After driving pods of dolphins into shallow coves, the fishermen kill the dolphins, slashing their throats with knives or stabbing them with spears. Thrashing about, the dolphins take as long as six minutes to die. The water turns red with their blood and the air fills with their screams.

This brutal massacre — the largest scale dolphin kill in the world — goes on for six months of every year. Even more shocking, the captive dolphin industry is an accomplice to the kill.

still from movie -- a drawing of a boat with a man holding a pipe in the water
Click on this graphic to view an animation that explains how the drive
fishery in Taiji operates, as dolphins are rounded up and forced into
shallow water with nets and underwater noise.
Animation by Rattle the Cage Productions.

Taiji – the Killing Zone

Between October 1st - December 13th 2004 the fishermen of Taiji reported the capture 609 dolphins (389 bottlenose dolphins and 220 Risso’s dolphins) to the Fisheries section of Wakayama Prefecture. While most of the 609 dolphins were slaughtered for human consumption, dolphin trainers selected some of the young and unblemished dolphins for use in captive dolphin swim programs and dolphin shows.

photo of a partly tarpaulined cove where the water is scarlet with bloody foam
A huge amount of blood is swirling with the currents after a
pod of Risso’s dolphins has been eradicated in the most
gruesome way imaginable. The dolphins fought for their lives
even as their guts were ripped from their bellies and blood
gushed out of their blowholes.
Photo by Genna Naccache

During the hunting season that began October 1st 2003 and ended March 30th 2004 the fishermen of Taiji killed 1,165 dolphins:

444 Striped dolphins
197 bottlenose dolphins
102 Pantropical spotted dolphins
293 Risso’s dolphins
117pilot whales
12 false killer whales

In that same period they captured 78 dolphins for sale to dolphinaria:

67 bottlenose dolphins
6 Risso’s dolphins
5 pseudo orcas

A measure of our success

Japanese fishermen kill the largest number of dolphins anywhere in the world and dolphins and porpoises face grave danger in Japan’s coastal waters when the annual hunt begins. This year the drive fishery, a method in which dolphins are forced ashore and hacked to death, has taken place in Taiji and Futo. We traveled to both of these fishing villages to document the massacres and expose them to the world.

In Taiji the annual dolphin hunt starts October 1st and continues through March 30th. Here, the massacre of dolphins is strongly encouraged by three local dolphinariums that purchase show-quality dolphins at a high cost and ship some of them off to othe facilities in Japan and abroad.

photo of men holding a blue tarp over a scene to hide it
The slaughterhouse is covered with blue tarp
to prevent us from videotaping the bloody scene.
Photo by Helene O’Barry

We were able to film the entire capture procedure in January last year when more than 100 bottlenose dolphins were forced ashore and some 20 dolphins selected by dolphinaria. Several dolphins were killed during the selection process and our powerful footage was recently aired by the BBC in a documentary entitled "Dolphin Hunters" and has been viewed by more than 300 million people worldwide.

This kind of major international exposure is the last thing the fishermen and the dolphin captivity industry want, and it came as no surprise to us that they were fuming with anger upon our return to Taiji in October.

Since the beginning of our campaign to expose the barbaric methods used to capture and kill dolphins, the fishermen have gone to extreme effort and expense to prevent us from carrying out our documentary work. What they are doing to the dolphins is so brutal; they know they have to conceal it from the rest of the world to avoid a huge international outcry.

boat floating in a rocky cove, dolphins crowded in the middle
The fishermen have driven a large pod of bottlenose
dolphins into the killing cove. They are cutting off the
dolphins’ escape with two nets placed 50 feet apart.
Photo by Helene O’Barry

They used to carry out the massacres in a large lagoon by a public road, but the mounting exposure has forced them into one last hiding place; a small cove hidden between two mountains. The cove is part of a public park and tourists from all of Japan come here to walk the picturesque trails along one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world.

During the drive fishery season, which lasts six months out of the year, the fishermen take the area into their possession, employing exceptionally hostile tactics to keep westerners and Japanese tourists away from the cove while dolphins are being killed. In doing so they have created a threatening and sinister atmosphere in an otherwise beautiful and friendly village.

Hiding their activities the best they can has been part of the fishermen’s policy for years but they have now taken their cover-up to a new, fanatic level. Supported by local authorities they have banned us from climbing the mountain from where we can see the killing cove.

They are so scared of our cameras; they have tied barbed wire around the trees we used to climb to photograph the massacres and at the top of the mountain have installed a hideous wall made of fabric and plastic to block our view. They have tied metal chains to trees everywhere along the paths leading to the killing cove. Attached to the chains are signs with hand-written words of warning: "Keep Out!" and "No trespassing!"

photo of Ric O'barry holding a small camera as high as he can reach over a canvas wall in a wooded spot. a sign says: keep out danger Taiji town office
The fishermen have erected a tall canvas
wall at the top of the mountain to prevent
us from filming the dolphin massacres.
Photo by Helene O’Barry

After the massacre the water remains red with blood for hours and the ludicrous signs warning people of non-existent dangers such as "Falling rocks!" and "Mud-slides!" are not removed until after the sea has washed the blood away and all evidence of the butchery has vanished.

The fishermen have even erected a large piece of fabric across the mouth of the cove to prevent us from photographing the bloodbath from a boat and as further proof of their deep-rooted fear of the truth being known to the world have placed a gigantic piece of blue tarp across the entire killing cove so we can’t film the massacres, not even from a helicopter.

The fishermen have succeeded in hiding the massacres almost to perfection but their strategy is backfiring in a way they probably did not anticipate. The dolphin slaughter is surrounded by so much contemptible deception and is so profoundly guarded; it has raised much curiosity among the visiting Japanese tourists who wonder what the secrecy is all about. We spoke to many of them and the one thing they kept asking was: "What are the fishermen doing behind the blue tarp that’s so terrible that no one is allowed to see it?"

The extreme cover-up is undermining one of the fishermen’s principal justifications for killing dolphins: That it’s a tradition they are proud of. If they are truly proud of killing dolphins, then why are they so frantic about hiding it? The fact that they hide the bloodbath behind blue tarp, chains, barbed wire and walls of fabric reveals that they are well aware that the dolphin massacres, once fully exposed, will be viewed as deplorable by the rest of the world, including the Japanese people.

The fishermen spend a lot of time waving large signs in front of our camera lenses, yelling, "Don’t take photos!" What they are really saying is, "We have something to hide."

By acting so hostile and secretive, they involuntarily bring more attention to themselves and the dolphin massacres. As a young girl visiting from Tokyo put it: "I never realized that dolphins are being killed here until I saw that creepy-looking blue plastic covering the lagoon."

a stony beach, with bloody water washing under blue tarps
The bloody cove after the massacre.
Photo by Genna Naccache

© 2006, Earth Island Institute, Elsa Nature Conservancy, In Defense of Animals, Animal Welfare Institute. All Rights Reserved.