Dolphin Hunts - Focus on Taiji, Japan

September signals the beginning of the dolphin drive hunting season in Taiji. The hunts begin on September 1st and run through April or beyond. The drive hunts are a brutal reminder that we have a very long way to go towards securing a safe and humane future for all cetaceans and require our response at a variety of levels. Unfortunately, the drive hunts are tied up in the political manoeuverings of the Government of Japan and its policy on whaling, and it is not a simple task to shut down even the cruelest of hunts in Japan.

Taiji Today

This devastatingly cruel practice involves the herding of dolphins at sea and driving and corralling them into the confines of the cove in Taiji. Here they are slaughtered for meat or kept alive for sale to marine parks and aquaria across the globe. Yearly quotas for these drive hunts reach into the thousands, where small cetaceans of several species including bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, spotted dolphins, false killer whales and short-finned pilot whales, are taken.

There is no doubt that the movie, The Cove, has done a great deal to raise awareness of these hunts, but what is even more important is what happens after The Cove, and the longer term work that is required to change perceptions and attitudes within Japan. We are doing the best we can, and working in coordination with the coalitions and individuals that are active on the ground in Japan. 

Find out what you can do to help.

Official figures reveal that nearly 1,000 dolphins were killed in the 2011-2012 season in Taiji. Similarly devastating, over 1,300 dolphins were killed in the 2010-2011 hunt season, and in that same season over 200 dolphins were taken alive into captivity from these hunts. The 2012-13 season allowed up to 2,089 dolphins to be killed in the drive hunts, and the numbers taken into captivity far exceeded prior years. Unofficial statistics indicate that nearly 900 dolphins were killed, and nearly 250 were taken into captivity.

It is also important to note that when not engaged in the drive hunts, the fishermen in Taiji also participate in harpoon hunts and small type coastal whaling for dolphins and pilot whales, as elsewhere in Japan, effectively ensuring that Japan’s dolphins are under almost year-round assault from these various hunting methods and seasons. In fact, the total quota for all small whale and dolphin species allowed to be taken by all hunting methods (harpoon, drive hunts and coastal whaling) in Japan for 2013-2014 is 16,497 individuals. 

Dolphins from the drive hunts are being shipped within Japan and all over the globe to captive facilities for display and swim-with-the-dolphin programs. More recent shipment of dolphins from the Taiji hunts have been sent to Egypt, Ukraine, Armenia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, China and Vietnam. In addition, permits to obtain orcas for aquaria through the drive hunts are reportedly still outstanding. 

There are no signs from the local authorities that the hunts will cease, and in fact, new proposals for a ‘whale farm’ where whales and dolphins may be kept for tourists to view and swim with has been proposed, and town officials have indicated this will not replace the drive hunts which they plan to continue. From WDC’s perspective, this is just an additional way for the town of Taiji to further exploit whales and dolphins, and adds to the other ‘attractions’ that benefit from the brutal slaughters that happen nearby, including the Taiji Whale Museum, swim-with operations that already occur seasonally in the cove during the summer, and Dolphin Base and Resort where tourists can also swim with dolphins from the hunts before they are shipped all over the world.