Educational Series: Stopping the Dolphin Slaughter

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It has been 8 years since the release of the documentary ‘The Cove’ that highlighted the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. We dove in to see what has changed since the spotlight was put on this horrific annual event. The changes we found were not what we had hoped. The 2016-2017 hunt produced only 45% of their typical quota, which has led experts to believe that certain species that were commonly hunted in Taiji are now facing the threat of extinction. This includes the bottlenose dolphin, the false killer whale, and the Pacific white-sided dolphin. The Japan Fisheries Agency has responded to the decline by opening up two new dolphin species for hunting this year, the melon-headed dolphins and rough-toothed dolphins. Hunters quickly fulfilled the original quotas set for these new species, so the Japan Fisheries Agency increased their quotas to allow the hunt to continue for the full season.

After eight years of silence, a representative from the Japan Fisheries Agency agreed to give an interview about their annual hunt. They are unapologetic about their methods or their targets, claiming that this is how the people of Taiji have survived for generations. He points out that crops are scarce in that area, and they would have no other way to make a living. The representative also attempts to draw a comparison between the cattle and pig industries, saying that there isn’t as big of an uproar over those industries simply because it is all done behind closed doors. The agency has no intention of stopping this tradition.

Advocates are still fighting hard to protect these dolphins. The Save Japan Dolphins Campaign has been fighting this fight for years, but they are trying to do it in way that will help the people of Taiji move on from the hunting industry so that the change will be lasting. They have come up with a multi-pronged plan to help transition fisherman from the dolphin and whale hunting industries into sustainable and profitable alternatives that will help preserve these animals and their environment. One successful alternative is to encourage more local tourism and start providing dolphin and whale sightseeing tours, which have proven successful all around the world. Another option they are trying to provide is to teach sustainable fishing methods. Most of these fisherman have been taught that dolphins and whales are killing the fishing industry, when in fact that line of thinking is untrue, misinformed and leads to overfishing and pollution, as well as the unnecessary killing of dolphins and whales. The Save Japan Dolphins Campaign can teach them how to develop truly sustainable fishing methods that protect the fish stocks, as well as the environment.

Sadly, dolphin hunting is not specific to Taiji, or even Japan. Dolphin hunts are being performed, albeit illegal, in West Africa, Latin America, the South Pacific and Asia for food consumption on a thriving dolphin meat black market, as well as to be used as shark bait. With the shark fin market on the rise in China, the demand has caused an increase in using dolphins as bait. Organizations like the International Whaling Convention, the Convention on Migratory Species and the Convention of Biological Diversity are all constantly working to highlight these issues and find a resolution before it is too late.

Dolphin hunts are so detrimental and disturbing, not only because of the plummeting dolphin populations in our oceans, but also because of what we now know about dolphins. They express empathy and altruism, they are clever and incredible problem solvers, and their brain to body ratio is second only to humans. They are also known to mourn the dead. Beyond that, dolphin meat contain toxic levels of heavy metals and pesticides that can lead to major health problems in humans. Savagely hunting these magnificent creatures for human pleasure is both inhumane and dangerous.

Please help us spread awareness about the dangers of swim with dolphins programs, dolphinariums, and any programs that exploit captive dolphins. With the natural upturned mouth of dolphins that resembles a smile, people are often unaware of their suffering. Educate yourself on the issue, and talk to your friends and family about the connections between those family dolphin attractions and the dark and dirty industry of dolphin hunting. The more people know and understand about dolphins, the better chance we have to putting an end to these needless killings.

Photo credit: sheilapic76

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