Dolphin drive hunt Taiji

Dolphin drive hunt Taiji

Actions against Japanese Dolphin Hunt

Each year from September to February, schools of dolphins, each numbering a hundred animals or more, migrate through Japanese coastal waters. Fishermen from the fishing village of Taiji track down the animals and drive them into a cove where representatives of the dolphinaria industry select future “show stars” often purchasing them for up to CHF 150,000. The remaining animals are slaughtered and their meat ends up on the shelves of Japanese supermarkets.

OceanCare, was a member of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition for many years and alongside the former “Flipper” trainer Ric O’Barry, has fought for an end to the Japanese dolphin hunt. Ric O’Barry’s mission in Taiji was filmed in the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove”. For the first time, the general public has been made aware about the dark side of dolphinaria.

Role of the World Zoo Association

Ric O’Barry and the deeply moving film “The Cove” revealed how unscrupulously the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) has been violating the Code of Ethics of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). According to this code, all WAZA members have to refrain from trade in dolphins derived from drive hunts. Nonetheless the Taiji whale museum – member of JAZA until 2015 – had been systematically trading the most beautiful animals, which are selected by dolphinaria representatives before massacre befalls the other victims of the drive hunt. This hunt is justified by ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’, but in reality, it is all about business and profit. The dolphinaria industry is the main driving factor behind the massacres of Taiji.

For many years, OceanCare together with other animal welfare and conservation organisations has been condemning the catches of wild dolphins which are being abused by the entertainment industry. As such, WAZA indirectly shares the responsibility for these dolphin drive hunts in that the main source of profit for the fishermen is the catch of live dolphins for the dolphinaria industry.

In April 2015, WAZA bowed to international pressure exerted by numerous dolphin activists, animal welfare and conservation organisations, including OceanCare, and unanimously decided to suspend JAZA’s membership because of the involvement of several JAZA members in the cruel dolphin drive hunts. However, while WAZA prohibits its members from trading dolphins caught in drive hunts, it does not disapprove of the take of dolphins from the wild and keeping them in captivity.

In order to save its membership in the umbrella organisation, JAZA in May 2015 pledged to abide by WAZA’s Code of Ethics and announced to stop trading dolphins caught in drive hunts. This resulted in the Taiji whale museum – the hub for the trade in dolphins from the drive hunts to the dolphinarium industry – to leave JAZA, thus losing the protection and certification from the association.

Spoiling the Appetite for Dolphin Meat

“The Cove” also promulgated the fact that dolphin meat is highly contaminated by pollutants such as mercury, PCBs and DDT. Since 1997, OceanCare has been cooperating with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in examining whale and dolphin meat sold in Japan. The results were horrendous: amongst others, the mercury content of examined samples exceeded the Japanese threshold value for mercury by up to 5,000 times.

In 2009, OceanCare and EIA issued the report “Poisonous Policies”, informing the Japanese government and Japanese embassies around the world about the scandal and demanded that the whale and dolphin meat be removed from the market or, at least, provided with a health warning. The appeal went unheeded. The poisonous “delicacy” continued to be sold in Japan and even served in school canteens and retirement homes.

OceanCare joined forces with renowned organisations* in “the Toxic Team” to warn consumers against the health risks. OceanCare has launched, together with Pro Wildlife, an online database which solely incorporates scientific publications. The database is designed for decision makers, scientists, human health authorities as well as the concerned public in whaling nations. The site shows relevant data as to the level of toxic substances in whale meat as well as associated contamination levels in consumers including human related health risks.

The falling demand for dolphin meat is diminishing part of the economic incentive for the drive hunt in Taiji. While almost 1,800 animals were killed in 2008, the number dropped to around 751 dolphins in the hunting season 2014/15. The strategy (to drive down demand) is working. OceanCare is also keeping at it with regard to live catches.

The Issue of Live Catches for Dolphinaria

In contrast to the decline in dolphin killings, live catches are still increasing. Ric O’Barry explains this worrying trend in a video statement. The number of dolphins taken from the wild and sold to Japanese or international zoos and entertainment parks has been continuously rising since 2004. Over the period 2004 to 2014, 1125 dolphins have been wrested from their habitat. See section ‘dolphinaria’ for further information.

Raise your Voice for the Dolphins

OceanCare supports the work by Japanese NGOs to raise awareness and to stimulate public discourse within Japan. Further, the organisation is working within international fora towards a global ban on the catch and killing of dolphins, as well as on the trade in dolphin meat.

Since 2004, OceanCare has circulated about 400,000 protest cards in Switzerland which were subsequently submitted to the Japanese Embassy in Bern. The campaign will continue until the dolphins are safe from the hunters.

Order Protest Cards now:

Tel. 044 780 66 88 or

* Members of the Toxic Team: OceanCare (CH), Animal Welfare Institute (USA), Campaign Whale (UK), Elsa Nature Conservancy (JP), Environmental Investigation Agency (UK), Pro Wildlife (D), Whale and Dolphin Conservation (D/UK)

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Data protection
We, OceanCare (Club seat: Switzerland), process personal data for the operation of this website only to the extent technically necessary. All details in our privacy policy.