March 1st is a pleasant day not only as the first day of meteorological spring, but also because it marks the end of the drive hunt season in Taiji, Japan. In this coastal fishing village, boats drive dolphins into a cove every winter. These drives alone are dreadful and utterly stressful to the animals, often families with their young. But the ultimate horror starts when they are trapped in the cove. The dolphins are brutally killed or captured for dolphinaria.
The hunt for dolphins in Taiji became known worldwide through the film “The Cove”, which won an Oscar and several other film awards. Its main proponent, the former dolphin trainer and now dolphin conservationist Ric O’Barry runs the “Dolphin Project” for many years to work against the drive hunts.
On the positive side, the number of dolphins killed has continuously decreased – from more than 2000 some 20 years ago to 534 in the 2018/19 season. Unfortunately, this trend did not continue during the latest season: 560 striped dolphins, melon-headed whales, Risso’s dolphins and pilot whales were killed in the cove of Taiji – 560 wonderful suffering an agonising and senseless death.
Another 180 dolphins were captured alive – 61 animals less than in the previous season: bottlenose dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins and six other species. If they survive the torment of capture and transport, these unfortunate dolphins face a miserable live in captivity for the questionable entertainment of dolphinarium visitors.
The demand for dolphin meat is low also in Japan. OceanCare has for many years been drawing attention to the fact that dolphin meat is a highly contaminated and a health hazard. Therefore it’s mainly the profit of selling dolphins for shows and dolphinaria that keeps the drives in the Taiji cove going. This shows once again that the business of dolphinaria and programs like “swimming with dolphins” has to stop.