Joining forces with animal protection organizations from around the world and millions of concerned citizens, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) is adding its voice to the demand for an end to the annual slaughter of over 20,000 dolphins in Japanese drive fisheries, says Al Hickey, the animal charity’s Western Regional Director. The global protest called Japan Dolphin Day is being spearheaded by One Voice, Earth Island Institute and the Elsa Nature Conservancy.
“From October through April, Japanese fishermen, engage in the largest slaughter of dolphins anywhere on earth. The dolphins are then processed and used for food and fertilizer. Japan is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and does not need to engage in this brutal sadistic practice,” says Hickey.
Every year in Japan, upwards of 20,000 thousand dolphins, whales and porpoises are rounded up in their off-shore family pods and driven towards shallow bays where the entire social unit is butchered, including young calves.
Travelling in small motor boats, Japanese fishermen locate and surround a pod of dolphins, and using the sound of their engines and banging pipes under water, drive the terrified marine mammals towards shallow water, where they are stabbed and beaten using knives and other implements. Thousands more are killed by hand-held harpoons farther out offshore. Due to the fact that dolphins are not easy to control, and their anatomy prevents an immediate kill, these drive fisheries are extremely cruel and bloody. .
Drive fisheries, as a secondary purpose, also supply wild individuals for display in aquaria and zoos around the world. Far from saving dolphins from being killed, when companies or organisations buy dolphins from drive fishermen, they actually promote the continuation of this activity. The fishermen select unharmed individuals to be sold and kill all of the others.
“These drive fisheries, such as the one that takes place annually in Taiji Bay, are far from being economically sustainable; they are in fact heavily subsidized by their local Fishing Cooperatives and the Aquarium Industry, which spare a very small number of dolphins so that they can be sold to various amusement parks and spend the rest of their lives in squalid concrete tanks, performing tricks and being constantly touched by tourists” says HSC Executive Director, Michael O’Sullivan. A study funded by The Humane Society of Canada found that whales and dolphins live shorter lives in captivity then when left alone to swim free with their family pods in the ocean where they belong.
Keeping dolphins and other cetaceans in captivity only reinforces the misguided notion that we can only understand nature by dominating it and that humans are somehow above nature rather than being a part of it, says the animal charity.
Experts say that these drive fisheries are also not biologically sustainable, the annual killing of approximately 20,000 dolphins and porpoises is poorly regulated, and the quotas are not based on any scientific data. Indeed, as there is little knowledge and data of how many dolphins and whales there are in the waters off the coast of Japan – it is impossible to declare that these hunts are sustainable in any way.
There is much scientific research being conducted currently, including POLLUTION 2000+ an international, interdisciplinary program agreed upon by the International Whaling Commission during the 1999 Annual meeting in Grenada, to determine the trends of chemical pollutants in cetacean tissues. The results show that dolphin and whale meat is heavily contaminated with PCBs, heavy metals, dioxins and other toxic materials, in concentrations exceeding the contamination limits set for human consumption. However, despite these risks, the Japanese government continues to encourage its citizens to eat these products, which are often mislabelled.
Recently two Taiji Councilmen broke their silence calling dolphin meat "toxic waste" and urging their fellow council members to end serving dolphin meat as part of the school lunch program following the results of their own independent tests on dolphin meat which showed high levels of mercury. In addition, last December, following tests on contamination levels in dolphin meat theOkuwa Supermarket Corporation banned the sale of dolphin meat at their supermarket chains.
“Instead of subsidizing an antiquated, cruel and unsustainable hunt, the Japanese government should support the lucrative whale watching industry – an activity which is becoming increasingly popular in Japan, but will only suffer with the continued practice of these drive fisheries,” says O’Sullivan.
Some of the fishermen claim that the dolphins compete with them for fish, and this is the reason for killing them, says O’Sullivan. “However, nothing could be further from the truth. The global decline in fisheries is because of human greed and indifference – a tragic tale of hook, line and extinction,” he says.
More than 200 major commercial fisheries around the world are in a downward spiral. Even the World Bank and the World Trade Organization agree that the global fishing industry is heavily overly subsidized with tax dollars in the amount of $ 30 billion. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization reports that there is a global overfishing crisis with 52% of stocks fully exploited and a further 24% of stocks depleted due to overexploitation. Each year commercial fishing fleets throw away 60 billion pounds of unwanted fish which is about 25% of the total global catch. There are simply too many vessels, catching too many fish, using too many destructive methods.
“In our opinion, these Japanese fishermen are environmental outlaws, and animal protection groups in that country have asked for our help in demanding that the Japanese Government ban this annual slaughter which each year destroys the family pods of more than 20,000 of these highly intelligent social mammals,” says O’Sullivan.
The Humane Society of Canada is urging people to speak out against the Japanese Dolphin slaughter, please send your letters to:
His Excellency Tsuneo Nishida
Embassy of Japan
255 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1N 9E6
Fax: (613) 241-2232
CONTACT: Al Hickey or Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com.
A registered charity, The Humane Society of Canada depends entirely on donations to support our programs to help animals and the environment. All donations are gratefully acknowledged with a receipt for income tax purposes. If you would like to support our campaign to protect animals and the earth, please make a donation here. Because when it comes to fighting cruelty, we don’t give up. Ever.