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Dolphin Project can confirm that on March 1, Taiji’s dolphin drive hunts ended for the 2020/21 season. During the entire six-month long hunting season, our collaboration with Life Investigation Agency (LIA), headed up by campaign director Ren Yabuki, ensured that an all-Japanese team was on the ground each day to document the drives and other events that took place. Never before has an all-Japanese team of dedicated activists taken up residence in Taiji, solely to document from a Japanese perspective, the suffering of dolphins that takes place annually at the Cove. As such, our educational outreach throughout Japan has never been greater.
This season, there were a total of 46 red coves (where dolphins were either slaughtered or taken captive) and 135 blue coves (where no dolphins were slaughtered or taken captive) involving six species of dolphins. We estimate 547 dolphins were slaughtered, while 140 were taken captive. Many more may have died as a result of the drives themselves, their numbers never recorded.
Dolphins, including the very young and the very old, were routinely subjected to harassment, suffering and abuse, slaughtered for their meat or taken captive to be exploited in marine parks and aquariums. Entire pods of dolphins were decimated. Several incidental deaths also took place, but thanks to the tireless documentation of the team, we were able to record the hunters’ shameless actions.
Over and over, once driven into the Cove, the team documented the prolonged suffering of dolphins. Even before the mammals are netted into the shallow water, the drives themselves often leave the pod exhausted, with visible injuries. Dolphin trainers work closely alongside dolphin hunters, choosing which mammals will be selected for “life” in captivity, and which will be slaughtered. Marine parks and aquariums often use the terms “conservation” and “education” when describing their captive dolphin displays. The reality however, lies in the bloody waters of this tiny Japanese town: demand for captive entertainment is what fuels Taiji’s drive hunts. Captive dolphin displays, including swim-with-dolphins programs aren’t educational, nor are they entertaining. They are exploitative, and often responsible for the destruction of entire wild dolphin pods.
In three separate incidences, the team also documented whales caught in the offshore fishing nets (called “set nets”). While one whale, a humpback, was released, a minke whale was deliberately drowned after being trapped for 19 days. A third whale, another humpback, was found dead. This isn’t the first time we have seen whales entangled in the sets nets off Taiji, but the number of incidences involving non-targeted species is alarming.
On a positive note, almost four years and ten months after I was deported from Japan, the decision of the Tokyo High Court to revoke the deportation order by the Ministry of Justice is now effective. In a judgement for the case of O’Barry versus Japan, the court ruled in my favor, citing that both my denial of entry (dated January 20, 2016) and deportation (dated February 5, 2016) were without legal merit. The Japanese government attempted to appeal this decision, however, the Supreme Court did not accept the appeal. When it is safe to do so, I am looking forward to visiting Japan.
Compared to the 2019/20 dolphin hunting season, while we cannot know the reason for the decrease in numbers, 37 fewer dolphins were taken captive. Thus, it’s imperative that we continue to keep the pressure on by educating the world why we need to say NO to the dolphin show.
Dolphin Project and Life Investigation Agency are grateful to each of you who lent your voices in support. While the drive season has “technically” ended, permits to hunt pilot whales are valid for several more months.
We hope you will continue to stand by Dolphin Project’s side as we continue our work across the globe, from the United States to the Solomon Islands and to Indonesia, where three dolphins are currently rehabilitating at the Umah Lumba Center in Banyuwedang Bay, West Bali, the first ever permanent dolphin rehabilitation, release and retirement facility for captive dolphins.
All of our groundbreaking work is made possible because of your generous support. Thank you for being a dolphin defender!
Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project