Taiji dolphin hunt

A pod of what appear to be pilot whale dolphins swim in a sealed off area just after the first dolphin cull of the season has taken place in Taiji, a small fishing village in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan on 10 September 2009. Floating upside-down at top right of the picture, where the rocky cliff meets the water and the yellow inflatable floats, is the discarded body of a baby bottle nose dolphin. Photographer: Rob Gilhooly
The annual dolphin hunt takes place in Taiji, Japan,  started on September 1st and will continue until March of 2017. With over 2,000 dolphins being slaughtered in previous hunts, that averages approximately 100 dolphins a day. What alarms people most is that this hunt has occurred for over 300 years, and it will continue for years to come if people do not try to stop it.

Dolphins are majestic creatures that have inhabited the earth’s waters for over ten million years. They have saved many people’s lives that were in danger, but now they are the ones that need to be saved.

This Japanese tradition dates back to 1675 and is an annual dolphin hunt. The purpose, as the Japanese claim, is for pest control. Japan reports that the population of dolphins overpower the fish population, so the hunt was designed to limit the effects dolphins have on the fishing industry. Another purpose is to supply the dolphinarium industry. Even though one of its main purposes is for the meat; dolphin meat is considered “trashy”, unlike whale meat. In previous DNA tests, meat that was labeled as expensive “whale meat” was tested and found to be falsely labeled dolphin meat. In addition to meat collection, trainers and founders of dolphinariums come to pick out baby dolphins that fit certain requirements. The remaining dolphins that do not fit these requirements for either of these purposes are slaughtered and left in a cove of bloody water.

The process of the selection is revolting. To begin, fishermen chase dolphins into the shore using loud noises produced by hammers thrashing into a submerged metal pole to throw off their echolocation. The dolphins eventually become trapped between the shore and the fishermen’s boats. Next, nets are dropped in order to prevent the dolphins from escaping and swimming back out to sea. The young dolphins are then separated from their families and inspected. Finally, the dolphins wait. They wait for their fate of either living in a tank, or taking their final breaths. Unfortunately, more than half of the dolphins wait for their death to come.

In previous hunts, the Japanese admitted using more humane ways of slaughtering. Instead of the traditional method of reckless stabbing, a new “instant” way of stabbing is used. Above their blowhole on their back, the dolphins are sphered by the fisherman. This is supposed to be an instant death, but the dolphins are left slashing for several minutes in pain. Cameras positioned by international activists have caught the Japanese trying to hide these final moments of life by covering the dolphins in tarps to prevent journalists from viewing the dolphins suffering. Other recorders positioned by activists have captured audio of the dolphins squealing in pain for minutes after they were stabbed.

Between the Japanese fisherman and the activist, the controversy seems to never end.

“There needs to be updated rituals and traditions with updated information from the Japanese. Dolphins understand life and they understand death. They mourn, they cry. Reducing the unnecessary torture of something should be the goal of all people,” Mr. McCusker said.

Mr. Pfleger is also aware of the hunt. He believes with advancing technology, we can spread awareness to people who care about the issue. If people are aware of the hunt, the possibility of it ending could eventually happen.

If you would like to get a visual perspective of this unfortunate event, please watch the film The Cove. If you would like to learn more about the hunt or pledge for it to be stopped, please visit Ric O’Barry’s website, “The Dolphin Project”.


About Stephanie Pizzi

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