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Dolphin drive hunts – hope or despair?

The terrible tally of dolphins killed or captured alive in this season’s drive hunts in Taiji, Japan is currently 402 slaughtered, 102 taken alive and 170 released, their fate unknown. Five different species have been captured or killed: bottlenose dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, short-finned pilot whales and striped dolphins. Many more are likely to die or be live captured for sale to aquaria before the season ends. 

Despite the Oscar winning film The Cove, despite the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA)’s decision to suspend the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquaria (JAZA) over the continued cruelty and JAZA’s decision not to allow its members to live capture from hunts, despite public outcry, despite the tireless documentation of the hunts by some very brave individuals, year after year, the hunts continue. 

Your comments on my last blog, in December, were full of despair and I sympathize, deeply. There seems to be so little we can do to stop the hunts continuing, which, at least in the case of the live captures, are now fuelled increasingly by demand for the dolphins captured in them by the growing number of theme parks and aquaria (including several being established in shopping malls) displaying them to the public in China. 

So what can we do? 

WDC has been trying to knock out one cog in the wheel of stakeholders supporting the drive hunts by encouraging cargo airlines to stop transporting wild-caught whales and dolphins and especially those captured in the drive hunts. Nearly 40 airlines have been in touch to say that they do not carry whales and dolphins and many have policies against such practice. Air India was the latest addition to our positive list. Others have not responded to our requests for information or, in some cases, continue to transport wild caught whales and dolphins. 

You can help us call on airline alliances to develop policies against the carriage of wild-caught whales and dolphins by signing our Star Alliance petition

In China, the China Cetacean Alliance is documenting the expansion of the whale and dolphin display industry in China and raising awareness about the welfare risks to whales and dolphins associated with live captures and confinement in captivity. WDC supports this kind of in-country awareness raising in both China and Japan where there is little public knowledge about the threat that captures and captivity pose to the populations targeted, such as those in Japan exploited by drive hunts and the individuals who live shortened, impoverished lives in captivity. 

Every year, peaceful protests, such as the one in the photo above taken in London, take place at Japanese embassies around the globe to highlight Japan Dolphin Day and bring together people from all walks of life to mark and protest against the continuation of these brutal, wasteful hunts. WDC supports peaceful protest. Even if it seems the protesters are not being listened to, support for films like The Cove, action taken against the hunts by WAZA and JAZA and celebrity support from Maisie Williams and others is all culminating to draw attention to the continued tragedy of the hunts and helping to bring about their end. 

As public awareness grows and stakeholder groups like airlines withdraw their support for hunts, we remain, as we should, shocked and speechless at the continuing destruction of lives in Taiji. But we must remain hopeful if we are to defeat this continuing threat to small whales and dolphins in Japanese waters and continue in our collective efforts to bring about an end to the hunts forever.