By Ric O’Barry
It’s 5:00 AM in Taiji, Japan. The dolphin-hunting boats are secure to their dock, and the mooring lines are doubled up. The sea is raging.
This is good for the dolphins. They will be safe today.
Life and death are here in the Twilight Zone is sometimes dictated by the weather. A friend of ours, who spent a great deal of time in the Wakayama Prefecture that includes Taiji town, told us this area has the worst weather in all of Japan. I believe him.
Life and death for these dolphins is also dictated by one Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). Dr. Dick has the power to abolish the violent captures that in turn would likely end the slaughter.
How? WAZA is the world society that includes hundreds of zoos and aquariums around the world. The Japanese regional association of WAZA is the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA).
A member of JAZA is the notorious Taiji Whale Museum. Dr. Dick and WAZA meanwhile have a policy statement on their website which is an excellent example of obfuscation, denial, and finger-pointing, in very
polite language, to avoid the reality that JAZA member aquariums and other WAZA member aquariums subsidize the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji by buying live-caught wild dolphins from the dolphin killers at an outrageous price.
WAZA’s “inaction” seems clearly in conflict which their own mission statement which emphasizes conservation and sustainability.
A dolphin killed for the meat market in Taiji will bring around $500-600 for sale. But a trained live dolphin can be sold for $154,000 or more on the world market for blood dolphin$. Where do the dolphins go? A lot are sold in Japan, which now has a hundred facilities (up from 50 just a few years ago) that keep captive dolphins, ranging from large SeaWorld-style theme aquariums to small netted floating platforms in harbors for an “encounter with a dolphin.” Many others are flown to China and the Middle East.
Just last Sunday, on the first day of the hunt season, the Dolphin Project Team witnessed about 50 or more bottlenose dolphins rounded up and driven into the Cove.
The next day, dolphin brokers and aquarium officials were out in force with the dolphin hunters, picking over the captives, finding “show quality” dolphins. One quality they look for is a lack of scarring or skin discoloration. Another is to get female dolphins, which are more easily dominated and trained than male dolphins in captivity.
Dr. Dick and WAZA proudly established a bizarre and meaningless dance in which the dolphin hunters capture bottlenose dolphins and
release the rest of the pod after taking animals for captivity. This is what they did last Monday. But this scheme only works for bottlenose dolphins, and only works for the month of September.
Any other species herded into the Cove during September is brutally killed in a welter of blood. And the rest of the year outside of September? Those same bottlenose dolphins will be slaughtered just like any other species. What kind of a slimy and misleading deal is that? Are the profits of the captive industry so important to WAZA that they will ignore the screams of dying dolphins in Taiji?
The money determines the madness. As long as the dolphin hunters get the lucrative subsidy from the captivity industry, they will continue the drive hunts, and slaughter any dolphins left behind for the meat. It is a vicious cycle.
What you can do:
Take the pledge: Don’t buy a ticket to a dolphinarium or a facility with captive dolphins or a swim-with-captive-dolphins program.
Tell WAZA that they should take steps to discipline aquariums that buy dolphins from drive fisheries like Taiji, the Solomon Islands, and other places around the world.