Skip to content
All articles
  • All articles
  • About whales & dolphins
  • Create healthy seas
  • End captivity
  • Green Whale
  • Prevent deaths in nets
  • Scottish Dolphin Centre
  • Stop whaling
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...

Bottlenose and Risso’s dolphins first victims of drive hunts in Taiji

The first slaughter of the drive hunt season which officially began on September 1st commenced with the brutal killing of at least 16 Risso’s dolphins that were herded into the killing cove on September 10th. Reports from Taiji also reveal the tragic chase, capture and round-up of as many as 80 bottlenose dolphins on September 19th. Of these, at least 50 dolphins were selected alive for captive programs as they were held overnight in the cove, with the remaining pod of 30 or so individuals released to the ocean the following day.

In the past, the round-up and capture of large numbers of bottlenose dolphins has met international condemnation. In January 2014, over 250 bottlenose dolphins were driven into the cove, and over the course of several days, at least 50 were taken into captivity, 41 were slaughtered for their meat, and the rest were released. An equally large round-up of bottlenose dolphins occurred in December of 2012, as well, with similarly devastating results where 25 were killed and over 100 individuals were taken into captivity.

Although dolphins around the coastline of Japan have had a slight reprieve at the beginning of the drive hunt season due to inclement weather, it is clear that the season is once again underway in earnest with these recent capture and killing events.

It is not clear whether the dolphins released will have a chance at survival: a significant body of peer-reviewed scientific literature details the physiological, behavioral, psychological, and socio-ecological impacts that chase, encirclement and capture have on dolphins. The majority of the literature reveals that acute and chronic stress-related impacts, as well as direct mortality, may result from prolonged and sustained capture techniques, such as those associated with the drive hunts, but also with other capture operations.

However traumatized or injured, at least those individuals released back to the ocean have a chance—those dolphins taken into captivity, if they even survive, will indisputably experience tremendous suffering in a deprived and shortened life in confinement.

WDC is maintaining a watchful eye as this drive hunt season unfolds. On the heels of the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA’s) suspension from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and its recent reinstatement after deciding to comply with WAZA’s ethical mandates finally requiring the Japanese association and its members to disassociate from capture and acquisition of live dolphins through these hunts, it is unclear which facilities might choose to honor or thwart this agreement, or drop out of JAZA altogether in defiance of this commitment to disassociate from the hunts.  

What is clear is that one of the primary culprits in the capture, trade and brokerage of drive hunt dolphins–the Taiji Whale Museum–will continue to operate as usual through its continuing association with drive hunts. The Museum announced that it would be dropping out of JAZA in early September to continue its dolphin collection activities. 

Hunting quotas have been set for the 2015-16 season and allow for 1,873 dolphins to be taken in the drive hunts in Taiji alone. Of this total, over 900 bottlenose and striped dolphins may be killed, along with hundreds of other spotted, Risso’s, Pacific white-sided dolphins, false killer whales, and short-finned pilot whales. The town of Futo has been given a quota of 137 dolphins.

During the 2014-15 season, nearly 800 dolphins were killed in the drive hunts. An additional 80 individuals were selected alive from the hunts for captivity. The year prior during the 2013-14 hunt season, official figures indicate that at least 834 dolphins were killed and 158 dolphins taken alive into captivity. Although Futo has not conducted a hunt since 2004, its quota is still active and can be resumed at any time.

Join our campaign to help end the drive hunts