My Meeting with WAZA:  Will They Help Stop the Taiji Dolphin Hunts?

<p><a href="">NOAA's National Ocean Service</a></p>

I'm in Switzerland, getting ready for a major demonstration and critical meeting tomorrow. On Friday, March 28th, we've invited hundreds of European activists to join us in a demonstration against the bloody Taiji dolphin hunts. But our target isn't Japan – it's the people who claim to love dolphins, the captivity industry's trade association: the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). I'm scheduled to meet with the Executive Director of WAZA, Dr. Gerald Dick, and his lawyer. Why his lawyer? Don't ask me. Accompanying me will be Sakae Hemmi, head of the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, a long-time critic of the dolphin hunts in Japan.

The meeting and demonstration is being organized by Save Blood Dolphins, Champions for Cetaceans, I Love Dolphins, and OceanCare. OceanCare and Cetacean Society International are hosting Sakae Hemmi all the way from Japan. My hat is off to these groups for their support for the dolphins of Japan.

WAZA gives lip service to being interested in stopping the hunts. They have issued a statement and a Code of Ethics urging aquariums not to get live dolphins from the Taiji hunts. But that is all. And many members of WAZA, which includes the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), are blatantly ignoring the Code and sourcing dolphins from the Taiji dolphin slaughter. The notorious Taiji Whale Museum, which brokers the live dolphin trade for the dolphin hunters of Taiji, is a member of JAZA, as are many aquariums that buy dolphins from the Taiji hunts.

You see, a dead dolphin is only worth around $500 or $600 US for its meat when sold in markets. But a live dolphin caught in the hunts, once trained, can go for $150,000 US or more. Taiji is one of the few places in the world where aquariums can buy dolphins yanked from the wild, and when one of their dolphins dies, they simply replace it with a new one torn from their families in a welter of blood. The rest of the dolphin family is slaughtered for meat.

Many WAZA members, including JAZA, are subsidizing the annual slaughter of hundreds of dolphins in Taiji each and every year. The dolphin trainers from the Taiji Whale Museum and other museums get into the water to help the dolphin hunters corral and separate the dolphins for the butcher knife, taking only a few of the "show quality" dolphins away for a life of imprisonment.

Dr. Dick is well aware of this, but refuses to take any action. He recently wrote Sakae that: "As you know, in some Japanese communities these drives have been part of the culture for centuries."

Sakae wrote back to Dr. Dick telling him he was quite wrong. The Taiji dolphin hunts only began in 1969, and the main reason for the hunt at that time was to catch some live false killer whales for the Taiji Whale Museum. This information is provided in the town's own written history, publicly available. The claim that the dolphin hunts are "traditional" or "part of the culture" is a complete sham.

WAZA should stop making claims based on the false assertion that the dolphin hunts are somehow part of "Japanese culture." This is just a lame excuse for the lucrative captures and killing to continue.

Instead WAZA and ALL its members should be condemning the dolphin hunts in no uncertain terms. If JAZA members continue to acquire dolphins from the drive hunts in Taiji, JAZA should be expelled from WAZA.

Dr. Dick should join our Dolphin Project Team and me in Taiji to see for himself what his captive industry is doing to dolphins and small whales.

Unlike dolphins in captivity, WAZA has the freedom to make a choice on how to act. So far, Dr. Dick and WAZA have made the wrong choice and that is shameful.

For information about the Swiss demonstration:

Send a letter to Japan's Prime Minister Abe urging him to stop the dolphin hunts: