Update – October 19, 2023: Two of the bottlenose dolphins held overnight in the Cove have been selected for captivity, and another 11 were slaughtered. The remaining dolphins were released.
TAIJI, October 18, 2023: When prey is spotted on the horizon, Taiji, Japan’s dolphin hunters are relentless in their pursuit. With a deadly arsenal of speed, sound and aggression, the nine species of dolphins included in the 2023/24 hunting quota are often overwhelmed.
Yesterday was no exception. At the crack of dawn, the hunting boats left the harbor, with fishermen soon spotting, then pursuing a large pod of bottlenose dolphins. By the time the exhausted mammals were driven into the Cove, it became apparent many juveniles were trapped amongst the group of 30-40 dolphins.
The drive was live streamed by Ren Yabuki and his team of Life Investigation Agency volunteers. They reported that the mammals were clearly agitated, slapping their tails against the surface of the water. The scene was chaotic. Hunters then began driving a second pod of dolphins, which ultimately they were unsuccessful in capturing. The ordeal ended with fishermen setting up high-intensity flood lights to ensure there were no disruptions to their plans, which would be enacted in full force the following morning.
What is a Drive Fishery?
The term “drive fishery” derives from the method of driving, or herding dolphins into a designated area for slaughter or selection. The annual dolphin drive hunt in Taiji is one type of coastal whaling conducted in Japan.
Bottlenose dolphins are highly desired by captive facilities around the world, making them a target for live capture in Taiji’s drive hunts. While bottlenose dolphins are normally selected for captivity, they have also been slaughtered during the hunts.
At the time of this writing, the dolphins remain in the Cove. Injuries, if any, will go unnoticed and untreated. Suffering, after all is an acceptable byproduct of the hunts, where in the morning, the stressed mammals will either go through a captive selection process, a slaughter, or both.
Why are dolphins being hunted in Taiji?
Each year from approximately September 1 to March 1, a large-scale hunt of dolphins takes place in the small village of Taiji, Japan, as featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove. During this six month-long hunting season, dolphin hunters utilize drive hunt techniques to herd large numbers of dolphins to shore, resulting in their capture or death.
The captured dolphins may be selected for live trade to aquariums and marine parks for display, while others are slaughtered for their meat. The price for live captures is many times higher than those killed.
Featured image: Nursery pod of bottlenose dolphins after being driven into the Cove, Taiji, Japan. Credit: LIA/DolphinProject.com
Dolphin Project is the only organization to have had a consistent ground presence in Taiji since 2003, documenting and livestreaming the hunts in hopes of raising awareness of this practice. We also collaborate with various local Japanese activists who are working to end the hunts. Dolphin Project is funding several lawsuits which are currently in litigation in Japanese courts.