Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt is Not a Tradition
Dolphin Drive Hunts Only Began in 1969
by Mark J. Palmer
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
Earth Island Media Release January 20, 2014
Claims being made by the Japanese government to the media and the public that the Taiji dolphin drive hunts, revealed to the world in the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove, are part of Japan’s “traditional culture” are completely false.
Worldwide condemnation of the dolphin drive hunts continues to grow. US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy released an unprecedented public statement of concern over the Taiji kill. And Japanese artist and activist Yoko Ono published a powerful open letter to people of Taiji calling for an end to the dolphin killing to avoid "making the children of the world hate the Japanese".
One of Japan’s foremost defenders of the dolphins, our colleague Sakae Hemmi of the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, submitted a letter a few weeks ago to Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which includes as a member the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), one of whose members is the Taiji Whale Museum, which brokers dolphins from the dolphin hunts around the world.
Dr. Dick responded to Elsa stating that WAZA would not take action against the hunts: “As you know, in some Japanese communities these drives have been part of the culture for centuries.” This same false claim is now being made to the media by the Japanese government.
“This claim of ‘Japanese tradition’ is nonsense,” stated Ric O’Barry, Director of Earth Island’s Dolphin Project. “The dolphin drive hunts, according to the town’s own written history, says a couple of drive hunts occurred in 1936 and 1944, but the current series of hunts only began in 1969.”
Ms. Hemmi has replied to Dr. Dick with an open letter stating that: "In fact, the history of dolphin hunting in Taiji is short. According to The History of Taiji, edited and published by Taiji town in 1979, the first recorded dolphin drive was in 1933, with subsequent hunts occurring in 1936 and 1944. It was not until 1969 that dolphin drives have been conducted on a large scale. The history of the dolphin drives spans not so-called 400 years, but a mere 45. Furthermore, in 1969, the main goal of the dolphin drive was to capture pilot whales as prized showpieces for the Taiji Whale Museum. In other words, the dolphin drive was purely for profit, having nothing to do with cultural history."
Elsa and two other grassroots Japanese environmental organizations are asking WAZA, in their open letter, to eject JAZA members that violate the WAZA “Code of Ethics” in using the brutal hunts to catch dolphins for display, thereby subsidizing the slaughter of dolphins for meat.
“What is going on here?” Ric O’Barry asked. “The dolphin hunts are being used by the captivity industry to supply wild dolphins to aquariums in Japan, China, Dubai, and other aquariums all around the world. (Imports of dolphins from Taiji into the US were finally blocked by the efforts of Earth Island Institute and other organizations in 1993.)”
WAZA publishes a “Code of Ethics” and has given lip service to opposing the Taiji drive hunts. But JAZA and the Taiji Whale Museum are still members in good standing with WAZA.
Ric O’Barry stated: “What kind of ethics condemns the dolphin hunts while taking advantage of them to help the Taiji dolphin hunters round up and slaughter hundreds of dolphins every year?”
“WAZA and ALL its members should be condemning the dolphin hunts in no uncertain terms,” Ric O’Barry added. “If JAZA members continue to acquire dolphins from the drive hunts in Taiji, JAZA should be expelled from WAZA.”
Photo of Taiji tarps and dolphin blood by Cove Monitor Cynthia Fernandez.