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In the fishing village of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture, the annual dolphin hunt will take place as usual. For this reason the Australian town of Broome has suspended their long-term relationship with the Japanese city. The hunt starts every year on September 1st and ends six months later. During this time thousands of dolphins are caught at sea or kept in “the cove” and slaughtered brutally.
By loud hammering on metal rods in the sea the fishermen confuse the dolphin’s sense of orientation so they can drive them with nets into a lagoon where there is no escape. As the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported in October 2008 some of the most beautiful dolphins are sold to aquariums and dolphin areas for up to $200,000 (about €150,000). The other small cetaceans are stabbed to death with spears, hooks and knives. The majority of the bloody harvest is thrown into the shredder: The Japanese make dog food out of dolphins.
Tradition in Taiji
Japanese fishermen say the dolphin drive is a thousand-year-old tradition so they justify the eating of whale and dolphin meat. Not even the fact that this meat is now heavily contaminated with mercury, and therefore a great danger to pregnant women and infants, stops their hunt. In coastal areas many families insist — almost defiantly — on the dubious pleasure of eating dolphin meat and pay a lot of money for it, according to the German magazine GEO.
The organization Oceanic Defense recently published on its website a current statement of the Japanese Whaling Association:
Japanese fishermen working in Taiji’s traditional drive fishery were yet again harassed earlier this month by representatives of an eco-terrorist organization. And yet again these interlopers have substantially misrepresented to the media both the facts about this centuries-old fishery and about their own actions-presumably seeking to enhance their organization’s fund-raising opportunities. Archaeologists have shown that Japan began to utilise dolphins and whales as food at least 9000 years ago. Coastal dwellers first used beached whales and organized small-scale hunting operations for dolphins. Then in 1606 records show Taiji organized larger-scale whaling operations thus making Taiji the birthplace of Japan’s traditional whaling industry. Taiji has a proud history of 400 years of whaling. From Taiji traditional whaling operations spread and adapted throughout Japan. In modern times the community-based whalers in Taiji have taken several species of small whales dolphins and porpoises. The dolphin drive fishery is a fishery that the Government of Japan manages sustainably pursuant both to applicable international and domestic law. In 1946 whaling nations signed the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling establishing the International Whaling Commission (IWC) “to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.” The IWC manages the 13 species of large whales. On the other hand management of small cetaceans dolphins among them remains the responsibility of the coastal state in whose waters these are found. The Government of Japan sets a sustainable quota for each species based on scientific abundance estimates. During the drive fisheries season government-appointed inspectors are in Taiji to oversee the fisheries and take samples for scientific analyses from every animal caught. For Japan the fisheries for whales and small cetaceans have for thousands of years been important food sources. However after the IWC imposed a moratorium on the taking of all large whales endangered or not Japan’s community-based whalers have only been able to take the small cetaceans for which Japan has management responsibility. Thus the community of Taiji is alert when interlopers whose agendas are based neither on international law nor on science but rather on emotion for economic self-interest continue willfully to distort the facts about this fishery. The dolphin fishery represents an important part of the tradition through which generations of Taiji fishermen have supplied their community with food. They will continue to do so.
The English original of the statement and further comments from Oceanic Defense can be found on the blog of the organization. Another, slightly older message of “people of Taiji,” the 1994 provides additional insight into the views of the fishermen.
The Cove. Shallow water. Deep secret.
Worldwide attention to Taiji increased this summer with the launch of the film The Cove. Directed by the National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos, inspired by Richard O’Barry, a marine mammal specialist for the American Earth Island Institute and co-founder of the German Whale and Dolphin Conservation Forum (WDSF). He became famous in the sixties as coach of the TV dolphin “Flipper”. After that he was fighting for animal rights and freed illegally many animals in the past. For example he helped free dolphins that were exploring for the U.S. Navy. For years he documented the activities of fishermen in Taiji.
The Cove was shot by an undercover team with hidden cameras and got awards at several film festivals including the Sundance Festival, which was founded by Robert Redford.
“We love Japan and we love the Japanese people and they have a right to know the truth,” said Richard O’Barry. Director Louie Psihoyos also expressed the hope that the ”most ghastly slaughter of animals on the planet,” will be put to an end when the population is aware of it. For the Tokyo Film Festival October 7-25, 2009 the film was not eligible this year despite the festival’s motto “Action! For earth.”
CNN also showed pictures of the brutal dolphin slaughter with interviews from Richard O’Barry and Japanese politicians. The Japanese argued that in the western world chicken and cows are slaughtered and eaten. “What is the difference,” the Japanese coordinator of the Japanese Fisheries Agency, Joji Morishita, asks. “God has given us the dolphins as food,” expresses a Japanese politician in front of CNN cameras.
Nevertheless the EU demands that the IWC authorize the hunting of dolphins and small whales. “This is a pact with the devil,” says Jürgen Ortmüller, CEO of WDSF. The EU is selling the souls of thousands of intelligent marine mammals in coastal waters for the benefit of the proposed rejection of new whaling activities of the Member States with the whaling countries of Japan, Norway and Iceland only to establish unity among the fractious IWC members. This proposal has nothing to do with protection for the whales.”
Until now “scientific whaling” by the IWC is abused by Japan through an annual hunting quota of 1500 whales according to the WDSF.
How can you help?
Whoever wants to speak out actively against dolphin hunting in Taiji has the opportunity to sign a petition online. The initiative “Stop the Doplhin Slaughter in Japan” wants to collect at least 10,000 votes in order to encourage the Japanese government to act. The team of Dive-Hive has already signed this petition. More video clips documenting the cruel dophin hunt an further information can be found at BlueVoice.org. (mmd/cat)
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