Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. XIV No. 1 - January 2005


Dolphin Drives in Japan


Japan's annual drive hunts of coastal dolphins began in October. The presence of peaceful witnesses trying to document the slaughters causes officials and fishermen great concern, for the worldwide condemnation that has always followed. For that reason alone a determined effort is made each season by a small number of experienced people, hoping to eventually stop the drives by showing the world what horrors happen there. Some hunts may have been prevented because witnesses were there, but the fishermen's strategy is to prevent the documenting, or wait until witnesses are gone before beginning the killing. Although this yearly slaughter is officially permitted in Japan, to most of humanity it is a resonating example of wanton, inhumane and cruel human behavior. A muted media and overwhelming social constraints keep much of the real travesty from the Japanese public, but that may be changing.

Ric and Helene O'Barry, of France's One Voice (http://savetaijidolphins.org/), were in Taiji over two weeks, during which there were several hunts. They documented and witnessed several, but they were kept away as much as possible without strong violence. Helene O'Barry said, "We have never felt so much concentrated hatred and anger. But the fishermen, we believe, have been told by the police not to cause us any harm. The Shingu police have been very cordial and friendly with us, and we attribute this to the letter we gave them when we first arrived, in which we make it clear that we are going to conduct our documentary work in a peaceful, lawful manner."

They were unable to document one group of about 50 bottlenose dolphins, including babies, slaughtered out of their sight in a small cove. Another were Risso's dolphins, wiped out entirely on 29 October in a five hour slaughter hidden from view by white blinds and large curtains of blue tarp covering the entire slaughterhouse. Some young dolphins were selected by the trainers from Dolphin Base, World Dolphin Resort and Taiji Whale Museum, and taken to steel cages in Taiji harbor for sale to zoos and aquaria. One was force fed later that day. There were no hunts when the O'Barry's were joined for a few days by the team led by Hardy Jones, of BlueVoice.org, as well as two journalists from abroad, but the killing started again soon after. Both the O'Barry and BlueVoice teams also went to Futo, but no hunts were started until after they left. Mr. Ishii (see below) had organized meetings for One Voice with the local police and Ito Fishermen's Cooperative Futo branch. He did the same later for the Blue Voice team. It was important that both groups certify that they would not engage in any illegal action in Futo.

Sakae Fujiwara did document the Futo hunt, and has graciously allowed CSI to include her report below. After you've read it, if you wish to help ELSA please contact CSI at your convenience. She has done much to stop the dolphin drives, often at considerable personal risk. In Taiji she has been threatened with a knife, and reported that this year, "on several occasions the fishermen said that if we did not stop videotaping the drive fishery we would be killed." Undeterred and determined to spread the truth, she has kindly allowed CSI to help. Sakae and Eiji Fujiwara, of Japan's Elsa Nature Conservancy, are responsible for causing many positive changes in Japan. CSI and many others are indebted to this devoted couple, and their exceptional commitment to work within their country on behalf of cetaceans and so much else. If you grasp the conditions they work under you will join with us to honor their sacrifice on behalf of the dolphins, recognizing the cultural differences that make their protest, as natives of Japan, so courageous and difficult.

Brief Report on the Dolphin Drive Fishery in Futo in 2004

By Sakae Fujiwara

The dolphin drive fishery in Futo was recommenced on November 11, 2004 for the first time in five years. On that day, after about three hours' chase and herding offshore, about 100 bottlenose dolphins were driven into Futo Fishing Port on Shizuoka Prefecture's Izu Peninsula, Japan. Cut off from escape by fishing nets across the entrance of the port, the confined dolphins, including many babies, swam around in panic. This continued more than 20 hours and the next morning a second drive again herded dozens of dolphins, driven by the threatening bang of metal poles to the pier and encircled by fishing boats and fishing nets. Then aquarium staff and fishermen ruthlessly searched for uninjured females about 2.5 meters long, preparing to haul them out of the water. Many dolphins were panicked, crashing into the nets, boats, the pier wall, and each other. Some became trapped in the nets, injured, bleeding, and struggling. Within the first hour the water had turned reddish with blood.

Shizuoka Prefecture and the Japan Fisheries Agency reported that fourteen dolphins were taken by six aquariums, one was released with a (too big!) transmitting tag attached on its dorsal fin, five were slaughtered for research and human consumption, and four were drowned or died of shock.

Every time a sling was put down into the water by crane, I recorded the lifted number and the time and confirmed that 19 dolphins were selected and lifted in all. However, I surmised that a considerable number of dolphins were drowned and sank to the port bottom or died of shock during the capture. Although the Fishing Cooperative and newspapers reported that fishermen released 80 dolphins to the ocean, it seemed to me that there were far less than 80. Furthermore, many of them were so injured and weak that their ability to survive in the wild was endangered.

A Big Change in the Futo Drive Fishery:

Futo has not hunted dolphins for five years, yielding to the pressure of internal and external protests. Instead, a Dolphin / Whale & Nature Watching business was started by a local fisherman and ex-dolphin hunter, Mr. Izumi Ishii. It has been going well. If aquariums and the National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries had not demanded dolphins, Futo would not have carried out the drive fishery this season. In other words, the captive industry and our Government intervened in the declining drive fishery in Futo, changed the characteristics of the drive fishery from the meat-hunting to live-capture and research-kill, and made it revive. In this way the drive fishery in Futo was given a chance to survive under the disguise of education and research.

Another big change is the strict guard to hide the capture and slaughter. All the paths leading to the port were blocked with "Keep-Out" signboards, and police and fishermen were on guard. Local police and the staff of Japan Fisheries Agency / the National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries, together with fishermen, kept strict watch and tried to stop our videotaping and photographing. They even prevented tourists from taking photos of the sea from the street, while dolphins were slaughtered and cut apart in a tent-house pitched on the shore.

The Reality of Aquariums and the Research by our Government:

This Futo drive fishery clearly illustrates the close relationship between aquariums and drive fisheries. While aquariums claim to be educational facilities, they capture dolphins in ways that actually destroy wild pods of dolphins.

Although aquariums sing the praises of dolphin protection, they chase them around fiercely in order to select and obtain dolphins that satisfy their shopping lists. Thereby they sacrifice the lives of many other dolphins and increase the captured dolphins' suffering. The truth is that aquariums motivate the Fishing Cooperative to carry out the drive hunts. To truly protect these creatures we must inform as many people as possible about what aquariums are really up to.

The Aquariums which bought dolphins from this Futo drive fishery were Shin-Enoshima Suizokukan, Awashima Marine Park, Marine Road / Dolphin Fantasy, Hosaka Marine Project, Shimoda-Kaichu Suizokukan, and Shinagawa Suizokukan.

Japan has continued killing cetaceans for nearly 20 years for scientific research, since she began "scientific whaling" in 1987. It is very difficult to understand why, at this time, any more dolphins need to be killed in Futo to check their stomachs or get specimens. It is more reasonable to think that they were killed for human consumption under the disguise of scientific research. Fishermen evade criticism by insisting that they are only using the leftovers of the researched dolphins to avoid wastefulness.

The tagged dolphin presents a new issue. This dolphin was lifted from the bloody sea onto the concrete pier, holes were crudely cut in the dorsal fin, a large satellite tag was attached, and bleeding profusely from the bolt wound, the dolphin was lowered again into the blood-red seawater among panicked dolphins that were later released. This is animal abuse, not science. According to outside marine mammal scientists, this dolphin would have been so physically and emotionally traumatized it could not be considered "normal", and "it would be difficult to generalise anything about this animal's behavior to other dolphins," except its position. Futo fishermen have been kept informed of the tagged dolphin's track and location. This suggests that, if this dolphin survives until the next hunting season, Futo will use this tagged dolphin just to capture more dolphins.

Dolphin in sling with tag on dorsal fin.

Dolphin in sling with tag on dorsal fin.
Photo courtesy Elsa Nature Conservancy

Future Drive hunts in Futo:

Mr. Azusa Nezaki, the chief of the Ito City Fishing Cooperative, declared completion and closure of the drive hunt in this hunting season, fulfilling the demand of aquariums and our Government. Mr. Tokumasa Suzuki, the chief of the Ito City Fishing Cooperative Futo Branch, said that he was very happy to have carried out the drive hunt successfully after five-year-interruption, and that young fishermen could have a good opportunity to learn the skill of drive hunts. According to him they would discuss how to carry out the dolphin drive hunt better next time, which means that there is a high possibility that Futo will be a spot to capture live dolphins and continue to supply dolphins to the captive industry.

The Ito Fishing Cooperative and its Futo Branch, which once admitted the cruelty of their way of slaughtering, declared that they would use the leftovers of the dolphins which were slaughtered in a humane way for research. Just like the scientific whaling has continued supplying whale meat since the IWC Moratorium, Futo will be able to acquire dolphin meat through our Government's scientific research, such as investigating the dolphins' stomach contents. Before long the fishermen in Futo may also claim that they should get rid of "nuisance" dolphins, which (they say) deprive them of their fish. It can be said that Futo is now following the footsteps of Taiji.

What we should do to Stop Future Cruel Drive Hunts of Dolphins:

Through years of investigation we have found that internal and especially external pressure on our Government and the Fishing Cooperatives is very effective to make them refrain from the drive hunt. Today Japan's drive fishery has become an international political issue, and international cooperation is strongly needed more than ever to bring it to a halt.

The following is what we, our coalition and partner groups, agree to be the most effective strategy:

We believe a witness' report from the actual location is very important. In order to stop this cruel hunt it is essential to spread the truth of the drive fishery in Futo and Taiji as widely as possible. At the same time, we must reveal the reality of so-called "educational" aquariums, and to show the reality of so-called "scientific" research.

This strategy, carried out in various activities so far, has proved to be very effective. The response of the Japanese public to the recent Futo drive hunt also proved the strategy's effectiveness.

It is also important to make an educational approach to the public, students and children, and provide them with information about the life of dolphins in the wild and in captivity, as well as information about the contamination of dolphin meat. These educational activities are also needed to establish laws to protect cetaceans as wild animals in Japan. Our peaceful and lawful strategy is essential to proceed educational activities in Japan.

We are very grateful that more Japanese and international organizations are showing concern about the cruelty of the drive fishery and are joining us to stop it.

To Stop future cruel Drive Hunts of dolphins please send your (polite!) petition / protest letter to:

- Fisheries Section of Shizuoka prefecture, Fax:+81-54-221-3288, webmaster@pref.shizuoka.jp

- Mr. Yoshinobu Ishikawa, Governor of Shizuoka prefecture, Fax:+81-54-221-2164, webmaster@pref.shizuoka.jp

- Ito Fishing Cooperative: Fax:+81-557-35-0756, ito@soitoshigyokyo.jf-net.ne.jp

- Ito Fishing Cooperative Futo Branch: Fax:+81-557-51-1139

- Izu Tourist Facilities Council, izukanko@i-younet.ne.jp. Please let them know (politely!) that they are losing tourists because of this dolphin drive.

- Fisheries Section of Wakayama prefecture: Fax:+81-73-431-2244, e0710001@pref.wakayama.lg.jp

- Mr. Yoshiki Kimura, Governor of Wakayama: Fax:+81-73-423-9500, e0001003@pref.wakayama.lg.jp

- Taiji Fishery Cooperative: Fax:+81-735-59-2821, taiji@town.taiji.wakayama.jp

- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, webmaster@mofa.go.jp

- The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, white56@maff.go.jp

- The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, webmail@meti.go.jp

- The Prime Minister of Japan, kanteihp-info@cas.go.jp

- Asahi Newspaper, feedback@asahi.com

- Yomiuri Newspaper, webmaster@yomiuri.co.jp

- Mainichi Newspaper, mdn@mbx.mainichi.co.jp

- Nihon Keizai Newspaper, ecntct@nikkei.co.jp

- Sangyo Keizai Newspaper, webmaster@sankei.co.jp

Thank you for your help. We really appreciate it.


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