Taiji fishermen dump Risso’s dolphins at sea

By Tracy Brighten

Marine conservationists claim that dolphin hunters may be dumping slaughtered calves and juveniles at sea to avoid quota counts
Risso's dolphin on rocks

Young Risso’s dolphin washed up on rocks in Taiji

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Cove Guardians are on the ground in Taiji, documenting the dolphin hunt season from September through March. Operation Henkaku is reporting the drive hunts to the world through live stream, press releases and social media.

This season, Cove Guardians have documented small boats covered by tarpaulin leaving Taiji cove after the slaughter of Risso’s dolphin pods. They claim hunters are dumping young Risso’s bodies at sea to avoid them being counted in the annual Risso’s quota, which was exceeded last year. Calves and juveniles are not worth as much for their meat as adult dolphins.

Sea Shepherd’s suspicion was strengthened on Tuesday when Cove Guardian volunteers found the body of a juvenile Risso’s dolphin washed up on rocks. The group claims the young dolphin was part of a pod of 18-20 Risso’s dolphins brutally driven into the cove and slaughtered on Monday.

Risso's with facial wounds

Young Risso’s dolphin with facial wounds

“The dolphin killers may be dumping these young Risso’s at sea to manipulate their kill numbers, but Sea Shepherd – and thousands of our Cove Guardian supporters around the world who have been following our updates from Taiji – know the truth that is hidden under the tarps,” said David Hance, Sea Shepherd Campaign Coordinator.

Cove Guardians say that Risso’s dolphins are the only species to be slaughtered since September 1st, with 73-76 deaths so far. The quota is set at 256 for the year.

A large pod of around 80 bottlenose dolphins was driven into the cove on September 19th, and over a two day period, 50 of the most appealing dolphins were handpicked for sale to captive facilities. Selection is a slow and cruel process with no consideration for animal welfare. Dolphins are trapped in the cove, or held in submerged cages with little food or room to swim.

Not sought after by marine parks like bottlenose dolphins, Risso’s are slaughtered for meat. Those Risso’s dolphins too small to satisfy the appetite of greedy hunters and trainers are discarded.

“The ocean knows no quotas. Whether the number reported by the Taiji Fisherman’s Union reflects the true number of dolphins killed or not, the same number of cetacean families – entire bloodlines at a time – have been stolen from the sea, from the marine eco-systems that support all life on Earth. Taiji’s dolphin massacre is unsustainable as well as unspeakably cruel”

David Hance

As well as documenting activities on blue cove days when dolphins swim free, and red cove days when entire pods are slaughtered, Operation Henkaku is raising awareness of the meat trade that fronts the highly lucrative trade in supplying live dolphins to captive facilities. For those involved in the Taiji dolphin hunt, it’s no longer about tradition and food culture, it’s about profit.

But the culture argument will be held up as a shield to fend off growing global criticism. More Risso’s dolphins will be sacrificed for a dwindling meat trade, to supply a growing demand for live dolphins in countries with poor animal welfare records.

“The death of the young Risso’s dolphin who washed ashore is a barbaric by-product of the captive industry, just like the deaths of all other dolphins who have fallen victim to Taiji’s killers. The highly lucrative trade in live dolphins for captivity is the economic fuel that not only drives Taiji’s hunting boats, it drives dolphins straight to their deaths in the cove

Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Founder and Senior Strategic Advisor for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The campaign to end this unnecessary and unethical hunt is gathering momentum worldwide. The breakthrough will surely come when more Japanese people realise what is going on in Taiji. Wherever we live, many of us are unaware of what goes on in our own country. We are hoodwinked by governments and businesses that focus on short-term economics regardless of environmental and animal welfare concerns. As consumers, when we are enlightened, we can choose not to turn away. We can fight for a more humane society.

“Until there is no longer a demand for captive dolphins and whales around the world or until the world steps up and demands an end to the brutal hunts from the government of Japan, cetaceans will continue to die in Taiji,” said Captain Paul Watson.

You can help the Dolphin Project to end the slaughter and captive dolphin trade in Taiji by taking these quick, easy steps

Image credit:
Risso’s dolphin washed ashore in Taiji by Sea Shepherd
Facial wounds on Risso’s dolphin by Sea Shepherd