Take Action - Taiji Dolphin Drive
The town of Taiji, Japan has been under intense international criticism for its continued practice of the town’s horrific dolphin drive hunts that occur each year from September to March. Dolphin drive hunts gained global attention after the 2009 film, “The Cove,” which brought the issue – along with the gruesome images of the Taiji dolphin hunts to the forefront of public media audiences.
The most recent hunt drove a pod of 250 bottlenose dolphins from the ocean into a small cove in Taiji, where 52 dolphins were traumatically torn from pod members and selected for live-capture for sale to aquariums, and another 41 were selected and brutally slaughtered through driving a metal pole into their blowhole in an effort to sever the spine. The remaining animals were driven back out of the cove; some of them juveniles and calves, now without their mothers and immensely vulnerable to predators of the sea, while others remain traumatized by the stress of watching family and pod members taken and killed before their eyes.
One of the dolphins taken immediately for live-capture by Taiji fisherman was an albino calf that has been given the name, “Angel.” Conservationists who witnessed the hunt say that following the capture of Angel, her distressed mother committed suicide by voluntarily refusing to breathe and effectively drowned herself, an act of desperation and pain seen in captive dolphins around the world. It’s also something I have personally, and painfully experienced myself – as a young man working with my father at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, I witnessed a young female dolphin ram purposefully into the side of her tank, sustaining injuries that killed her.
An animal with the ability to choose death over a life of immeasurable grief, pain, and trauma must be an animal not so different than us. Dolphins are mammals, like us. They nurse their young, they care for their families, and they live in highly developed social systems. They are our counterparts in the sea. Just as we have evolved to survive the difficulties of life on land, dolphins have evolved superb, superhuman abilities to thrive and dominate life in the ocean.
Angel is currently being held captive in a small tank at the Taiji Whale Museum, where she could be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A typically dolphin captured and sold from Taiji goes for around $150,000-$200,000 on the aquarium market. The demand comes from us – through aquariums. Japan has over 50 aquariums with roughly 600 dolphins, while aquariums in China, Dubai, and other countries highly contribute to the demand for live dolphins. Angel will likely sell for even more money, as she is such a rare albino individual. Even before that, Angel could die in her captive pen – over half of dolphins taken from the wild will die within their first two years of captivity, as many cannot endure the stress of confinement and physiological trauma of losing their families, especially at such a young age.
The story of Angel and her mother stand as a symbol for the future of dolphins – and our future as well. A symbol for something more than just the end of marine mammals in captivity, more than an end to the inhumane cruelty we impose upon our natural world, but also as a symbol for the ability of humans to reconnect with our own humanity – our own compassion for the world around us and for one anther.
Please join us in our call to government officials of Taiji and Japan to stop these gruesome and wasteful dolphin drive hunt practices, ending the supply of the dolphins to aquariums around the world, and working with the Taiji fishing community towards more sustainable economic development for their future.
For the Dolphins,
President, Ocean Futures Society
Image: Céline Cousteau swims with free dolphins in Hawaii. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society
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