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Dolphin Slaughter in Japan
By: Kevin Carey, Mark Dumschat and David Pendrith
1.The IWC (International Whaling Commission) is the only international body dealing with cetaceans of all kinds that is recognized by the UN in the world and it does not have any regulations against the poaching of smaller whales such as porpoises and dolphins.(1) Commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986.(2) One year after the ban, Japan responded by tripling its kills of dolphins and porpoises to make up the money lost in the whaling market as well as starting lethal research programs on large whales. The IWC has a loophole in its mandate where a country can capture and kill whales for science.(1) Japan is taking advantage of this loophole to continue slaughtering whales each year. The Japanese government masks their actions by claiming that they are taking stomach samples, body proportions, tissue samples and other biological nonsense.(1)
The Flipper T.V. series started the multibillion dollar dolphin industry that exists today. Taiji, Japan is the largest supplier of dolphins to marine parks and swim with dolphin programs around the world. Each bottle nose dolphin sells for about 150,000.(2) The Taiji Whale Museum brokers the deals with the town and fishermen split the profits. The town being involved is essential to keeping the atrocities that take place a secret. An estimated 23,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed in Japan each year.(1) Over 2,500 of these dolphins are killed off the shore of one cove in Taiji between September and March.(2) This is called the dolphin drive; dolphins that aren’t killed during this horrific annual event are killed out at sea with harpoons and other hand held weapons. The primary reason for starting the dolphin drive was to capture bottle-nose dolphins for sale all around the world as show animals, those dolphins that are not selected are killed for their meat.(1)
The entire dolphin drive is executed by 26 fishermen and 13 boats.(2) The fishermen set out early in the morning and wait for the migrating dolphin schools to come by and then make their move. Each boat has long metal pole going into the water.(1) The fishermen line up their boats and start hitting the poles with hammers, this creates a wall of sound that frightens the dolphins into going in any direction the fishermen want.(1) Since dolphins are auditory animals, they are helpless to this method and are terrorized until their imminent death. Many dolphins die of stress or exertion during the extensive journey.(1) When the fishermen were asked if they would subsidize killing dolphins, they replied that it wasn’t a matter of money but that of pest control.(1) In 2003, Japan cited scientific data blaming the decline in global fisheries on dolphins and whales. This is of course a ridiculous lie however it is Japans official standing.(1)
Over the years, Japan has acquired support within the IWC by offering financial support to bankrupt nations in return for votes.(1) Every island in the eastern Caribbean was given a multimillion dollar fishery complex in return for votes in the IWC. Sadly, these complexes were quickly abandoned and are certainly not used for fishing, if they are used at all.(1) In addition, Japan also pays for each country’s IWC annual dues in order to keep that country on the docket. Even more tragically, more and more countries are seeing this as an opportunity, not a moral abomination and are signing up to whore out their countries to the Japanese.
2. The key stake holders on this issue are Japan, The International Whaling Committee and Eastern Caribbean Islands, Ric O’Barry and animal activists, as well as dolphinariums. All of these people or groups have some sort of stake in or are directly involved with the capture, selling, and butchering of dolphins.
Japan is obviously a key player in this issue because Japan is where this atrocity is happening or more importantly where it is being allowed to happen. The most common type of meat consumed in Japan is fish, and when the IWC banned whaling, a huge gap needed to be filled in the food production industry. Dolphin and porpoise meat served as the mortar to fill the gaping hole left by the lack of whale meat. Another way to look at how Japan is involved in this is that it is their lively hood. Slaughtering dolphins is not an activity that a country wants to be associated with however it is so lucrative right now that it is hard to stop. The Japanese government is not only allowing but attempting to cover up the fact that thousands upon thousands of dolphins are being slaughtered off its shores every year in order to make money.
The International Whaling Committee and the countries that support Japan could be said to have just as much blame as Japan for the dolphin drives. It is the single authoritative voice on the hunting of cetaceans in the world and it might as well be killing the dolphins by not taking action. Ignorance is not bliss in this situation, the issue of Japan killing an enormous amount of dolphins is brought up each year. And each year nothing is done because of bogus reports on how dolphins are detrimental to the environment, humane ways of killing dolphins, as well as a strong group of countries backing the Japanese vote against implementing regulations on dolphins. This is a classic example on how large governmental bodies never solve anything. The system is clearly corrupt and yet nothing is done to correct it. The Eastern Caribbean Islands such as St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, and Grenada are all on Japan’s pay roll.(1) These countries are of course against dolphin regulations because then they wouldn’t get paid, plain and simple. Sadly, at least half a dozen more countries have joined forces with Japan in return for a few yen. Most notably out of these countries were Cambodia and Ecuador.(1)
Ric O’Berry and animal activists are certainly involved in this issue, this could be the most catastrophic man made ecological disaster the earth has ever seen. Ric O’Berry was the trainer of the original Flipper(s) for the television show. He didn’t have the luxury of reading a handbook on training dolphins; he had to create his own. Ric spent the first ten years of his life building up the dolphin industry; he even captured the first flippers that were used for the television show. Now Ric spends his time trying to save and release dolphins from captivity. He has been arrested numerous times for trying to release dolphins that were in captivity.(1) Such a drastic change in stance can only be brought about by a major occurrence. For Ric, it was the main Flipper dolphin dying, except the thing about Flippers death was that it wasn’t an accident, Flipper killed herself. Dolphins do not breath like humans, breathing is a conscious effort and often times when life becomes too stressful and depressing for a dolphin, like when it is put into captivity, it simply chooses to stop breathing.(1) Since then, Ric O’Berry has gone around the world trying to free every dolphin he can.
Wildlife organizations such as the Oceanic Preservation Society are also has a large stake in this issue. If dolphins were taken out of the ecological equation there would most certainly be a collapse and that is exactly what the OPS is trying to stop from happening. The method used to kill the dolphins is incredibly cruel which is another reason wildlife organizations would be interested.
Dolphinariums such as Sea World and Marine Land also have an invested interest in Japan dolphin poaching. If Japan had to stop hunting dolphins then that would mean over half of the dolphin supply market would be gone while the full demand market remained. The Dolphinariums are the driving force behind the dolphin drives, a dead dolphin is worth 500-700 dollars while a live show dolphin is worth over 150, 000 dollars.(1) It is evident that without dolphins, there wouldn’t be any dolphinariums. So it is natural that the cause of an action would be affected if that action were to stop.
3. Every year, around 20,000 dolphins are killed off the coast of Japan (Scanlon, 2000), and most of the killing is done in one location: Taiji. In a recently released documentary entitled “The Cove”, a group of environmental activists documented the Taiji slaughter of the dolphins. According to the film the reason dolphins are hunted are so that they can be sold to aquariums around the world, because “live dolphins can fetch up to $150,000 (USD) each, while butchered ones are worth only about $600” (Johnson, 2009). Only young bottlenose females are desirable to buyers, and so any other captured dolphin is killed and sold as meat. However, since dolphin meat is considered less valuable than whale meat, Japanese retailers and manufacturers purposely mislabel the dolphin meat as whale meat. As early as 1997 Japanese manufacturers were trying to pass dolphin meat for whale; at that time dolphin meat accounted for “30% of all products sold as whale meat” (BBC, 1997); who knows what that number is now.
A particularly disturbing fact about the dolphin massacres in Taiji is that the meat retrieved from the slaughtered dolphins often contains 20 times the acceptable mercury content of commercial meat. Not only are consumers being duped into buying dolphin meat thinking that they are purchasing whale meat, they are meanwhile being slowly poisoned by the mercury in the meat. The Government knows about the toxic levels of mercury in the meat, however, they refuse to do anything about it. In fact, “Japan's Ministry of Healdi, Labour and Welfare recommends a diet for pregnant women that includes… bottlenose dolphin” (Johnson, 2009). There was even talk of introducing the dolphin meat into the diet of schoolchildren via their lunch meals. The townspeople of Taiji see nothing wrong with the killing of thousands upon thousands of dolphins every year; in fact, they believe that being a dolphin fisherman is a glamorous job, and from childhood they idolize the fishermen (Scanlon, 2000). The fishermen also represent a very miniscule percent of the population of Taiji, but they are the ones with some of the most desirable jobs in the town. Though the people of Taiji know about the massacre and even glorify it, the rest of Japan is seemingly oblivious to the issue, and there is a widespread Japanese government censorship of the media with regards to the dolphin hunt.
The 2009 documentary “The Cove” is hoping to “embarrass the Japanese government into revising its hardline support of whaling and dolphin fishing” (Johnson, 2009). The few Japanese people who have managed to see the film have been horrified and embarrassed by their country. According to Johnson, The Cove has been distributed “in some 40 countries, but so far Japan is not one of them”, and by the looks of it, isn’t likely to be. However, the film has garnered much praise and buzz, which is a start towards stopping the dolphin hunt. The Cove was recently nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary (Feature), and even more people are likely to see it now because of this nomination. Hopefully, the more people that see this documentary, the more people will want to become active in helping to stop the dolphin hunt. The makers of the film think that if The Cove wins an Oscar, it will be practically impossible for people in Japan to ignore it; regardless of government bans, thanks to the Internet. And if the citizens of Japan begin to grow concerned over the issue, they can pressure their own government into stopping the unnecessary massacre of thousands of dolphins every year.
4.Our group is very much opposed to the unethical and unregulated hunting and distribution of Dolphins in Japan. The hunting poses a number of consequential negative affects to Japan as well as to other nations around the world. This hunting not only exploits the population of highly intelligent animals but it also harms the people of Japan. The meat from butchered Dolphins is highly toxic as it contains high levels of mercury(2). The appropriate amount of mercury in a piece of meat should be around 0.04 ppm (parts per million), samples taken from Dolphins slaughtered in Taiji contained up to 2000 ppm.(1) Dolphin meat is not seen as a delicacy in Japan and is not a staple element of the Japanese diet.(
The meat is mainly used as filler or as imitation or counterfeit whale meat. In this sense the unregulated distribution is essentially useless as it is only serving a very niche market. Saving the Dolphin community would be far more lucrative task then simply killing them off for a source of undesirable toxic filled food. As Dolphins are one of the most intelligent and advanced forms of marine life(
, both mentally and socially, their use in scientific studies would be far more beneficial.
Our group will be advocating to stop the needless killing of these magnificent animals in Japan. As this problem is not very well known around the world and the fishermen in Japan claim “Japanese people have no right to know about the dolphin hunt” (savejapandolphins.com). Our group will mainly focus on educating the public about this issue. Informing the public will cause others to become concerned and hopefully encourage them to advocate against this problem as well. Our education strategy will target a board range of age groups, from young school children to established marine biologists. Each main age group will have a specific campaign geared towards them as to not alienate certain audiences. The younger audiences will hopefully be inspired to induce change and the older, more established audience can fund or join organizations. People in Japan can have the most influence by choosing to boycott known products with dolphin meat in them and by boycotting local dolphin exhibitions.
5. Communication Strategy:
- decrease the number of hunted Dolpins from 2010-2020
- Have 5000 members of our face book group by the end of the calendar year.
- increase global awareness of the Dolphin hunting problem
-spark advocacy interest
-eliminate the slaughter of dolphins in Japan
-Decrease the amount of cetacean meat being sold.
- elementary school children
- university students
- older adults
(younger audiences preferred)
-Get as many people informed as we can with the resources that are available to us.
- make a platform poster containing all of the relevant information
-Create a easy to read and visually appealing pamphlet
- create a website with up to date information
- use social networking websites ( facebook and twitter) to help spread the word as well as link to charity organizations and other advocacy groups.
-Organize a free screening of the movie at the UTM student centre to raise awareness among out peers.
In order to engage people about the issue of the dolphin massacre in Japan, our group would like more people to watch the film "The Cove". The vivid, graphic imagery portrayed in the film of the slaughter is much more compelling for someone to act than handing out literature pertaining to the issue. A great way to raise awareness for the film would be to hold a free screening somewhere like the UTM Student Center; students would attend the free movie, and those who were moved by the film could then visit an information table to receive literature and more information about what they can do about the issue.
Another way to get people to see the film would be to stream the film for free on the website, and that way they can watch it wherever they are. This way the film could also reach people in Japan, where the government is blocking the release of the movie.
1. Psihoyos, Louie.
Diamond Docs, SkyFish Films, 2009
“Dolphins 'sold as whale meat’” BBC News. 25 Dec. 1997. Online at
26 Feb. 2010
Johnson, Brian D.. "Killing Flipper. "
3 Aug. 2009: ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest. Web. 26 Feb. 2010.
Scanlon, Charles. “Dolphin hunting thrives in Japan”. BBC News. 16 Oct. 2000. Online at
. 26 Feb 2010
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