Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VI No. 1 January 1997

Eiji & Sakae Fujiwara, of the Elsa Nature Conservancy (Eiji is CSI's Japan Representative), have graciously provided the following report, of considerable significance to all of us:

Dolphin Slaughter Limited & Captive Whales Released in Japan

On October 17, 1996 more than 200 bottlenose dolphins and about 50 false killer whales were driven into Futo harbor in Shizuoka prefecture, Japan. All the dolphins and whales were kept there without food for four days, with 26 bottlenose dolphins and 6 false killer whales finally sold to six aquariums on October 21 and 22. Though dolphin killing and capturing for aquariums are allowed in Japan, each year the National Fishery Agency sets a maximum catch number for the eight prefectures which conduct small whale captures. By government regulation the Futo Fishery Cooperative Association (Futo FCA) was not allowed to catch any false killer whales in 1996, and up to 75 bottlenose dolphins. The Futo FCA had confined about three times as many bottlenose dolphins as its permissible limit. Consequently, this drive fishery conducted by the Futo FCA was clearly a violation.

As soon as this violation was discovered, four NGOs including Elsa Nature Conservancy pointed out the violations and requested the Futo FCA to stop the capturing immediately. However, five dolphins were slaughtered in the late afternoon on the 21st, and a full scale slaughter of the dolphins and whales began on the 22nd. We protested continuously to the Futo FCA, the local government of Shizuoka prefecture and the National Fishery Agency to stop further killing and release the dolphins and whales which were still alive. Strong support from abroad was the source of our energy as well as very strong pressure on the government and the aquariums. Yielding to the internal and external pressure of civilian environment and animal conservation organizations and strong protests by many people, the local government of Shizuoka and the Futo FCA reluctantly admitted the violation, and the fishermen themselves released over 100 dolphins and whales in the harbor by removing the nets at the entrance of the harbor on October 23. About one week later, on October 31, all of the six false killer whales which had been taken into aquariums were released from the Futo harbor, although with unsatisfactory methods.

Events like these have never occurred in the history of Japan. Especially epoch-making were the facts that the action alert was initiated by Japanese NGOs and that the government and the fishermen made a compromise with the NGOs. The pressure of protesting messages from foreign supporters also helped the outcome.

This incident left two important assets. One was that it revealed a grave cheating by our government about the coastal dolphin and whale hunting. As the quota system is actually a voluntary regulation and not a true law, even if the fishermen violate it, they can evade punishment. On the other hand, there has never been a government agency to watch whether the regulation is kept correctly or not. Worse than that, our government uses this quota system to evade the criticism of over-hunting of dolphins in our coastal waters at the IWC meeting. The other asset was that many NGO's and individuals in Japan have expressed an interest in this issue and have worked with us. Together we were able to draw the attention of the public and the mass media to the dolphin capture. Moreover, criticism against aquariums has begun and the unity between people who are working for animal welfare has become stronger than ever before.

We believe the success of this rising movement, which includes the Japanese younger generation for the first time, will greatly affect the future of our campaign to save dolphins and whales.

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