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Dolphin roundup at Japan’s Taiji Cove puts spotlight on changing economics of hunts

dolphinimage2

By Tim Zimmermann

Over the weekend, Japanese fishermen from the village of Taiji drove an estimated 200-plus bottlenose dolphins into a local bay made notorious by the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. Over the course of the weekend, some 51 were selected for sale and display in marine parks, according to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which monitors the Taiji hunt.

Many or most of the others are now likely to be slaughtered, the group says.

The capture and imminent slaughter of such an unusually large group of dolphins garnered global media attention, along with Twitter condemnation from celebrities like Kirstie Alley, Bryan Adams and Alyssa Milano, along with an open letter from Yoko Ono.

Most notably, newly installed U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy sounded a note of alarm,  tweeting: “Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG opposes drive hunt fisheries.”

So far, the Japanese fishing industry appears unmoved.

Attempts by to get comment from officials for the Wakayama prefecture, where the town of Taiji is located, went unanswered. But one Japanese fishing industry official told Agence France Presse: “We’ve got our lives. We can’t simply nod (to protests) and end centuries of our tradition… If you want to talk about cruelty, you couldn’t eat cows, pigs or any other living creatures.”

Indeed, the Taiji dolphin drive hunt, which takes place annually from September through April, has persisted despite increased global scrutiny and attention. Since 2000, according to the group Whale and Dolphin Conservation, more than 18,000 dolphins from seven different species have been either killed or taken into captivity during the Taiji hunt.

Traditionally, the Japanese drive hunts were mainly as a way of procuring meat. Dolphin meat has long been considered a local Taiji delicacy, and meat from the Taiji dolphin hunt has been sold across Japan. Hunting whales and dolphins was also a mainstay of the Taiji economy.

“We are a whaling community, and we don’t want to lose that,” Katsutoshi Mihara, chairman of Taiji’s town council, told the New York Times in 2008. “Here, all boys grew up dreaming of hunting whales.” The Wakayama Prefecture also vigorously defended the Taiji dolphin hunts in response to The Cove, saying in part:

“The Taiji dolphin fishery has been a target of repeated psychological harassment and interference by aggressive foreign animal protection organizations. Taiji dolphin fishermen are just conducting a legal fishing activity in their traditional way in full accordance with regulations and rules under the supervision of both the national and the prefectural governments. Therefore, we believe there are no reasons to criticize the Taiji dolphin fishery.”

In recent years, however, concern over mercury levels in dolphin meat has raised questions in Japan about the use of dolphin meat as a food source, especially in school lunches. And dolphin meat is no longer a primary source of food, reducing the practical value of the drive hunt as a food source.

At the same time, the sale of dolphins captured in the Taiji drive hunt for marine park display (via brokers such as the Taiji Whale Museum) appears to be a steadily growing profit source for the hunts. From 2000-2005, an average of 56 live dolphins annually were sold for captive display. From 2006-2012, the annual average has more than doubled to 137, with a total of 247 sold for captive display in 2012-2013, according to marine mammal advocacy groups.

So far this season, a total of 137 dolphins have been selected for marine park display, including the 40 bottlenose selected for sale over the weekend. According to Sea Shepherd, one of the first dolphins removed from the Taiji cove in the weekend roundup was a rare albino calf, which could be especially valuable in drawing crowds to a marine park.

Whale And Dolphin Conservation has documented the growing role of the sale of dolphins to marine parks in Japan in driving hunts . According to Ric O’Barry, who was featured in The Cove and now works to try and bring an end to the Taiji hunt through The Dolphin Project, no one has documented the price that a live dolphin fetches for the Taiji fishermen.

But Barry says there is documentation showing the Taiji Whale Museum, which trains and brokers many dolphins from the Taiji hunt, has in the past sold Taiji dolphins abroad for as much as $150,000 each.

The 50-plus Japanese aquariums that keep some 600 dolphins and take many of the Taiji dolphins, as well as many aquariums abroad, do not pay such exorbitant prices. (According to Courtney Vail of Whale And Dolphin Conservation, the range is more like $40,000 to $80,000). But with growing demand for dolphins from China–which already has 35 aquariums displaying dolphins–it’s clear that the sale of live dolphins from the Taiji drive hunt has become a very lucrative business.

The steady demand for Taiji dolphins from Japanese marine parks has prompted three Japanese conservation groups–Elsa Nature Conservancy, Help Animals, and Put an End to Animal Cruelty and Exploitation (PEACE)–to renew a call for the World Association Of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to ensure that members of the Japan Association Of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) stop acquiring wild dolphins from the drive hunts.

In the past, WAZA–which sets standards for member marine parks around the world–has declared that “the catching of dolphins by the use of a method known as “drive fishing” is considered an example of such a non-acceptable capture method.” But WAZA has also been reluctant to pressure Japanese marine parks over the purchase of dolphins from Japanese drive hunts, including Taiji, due to concerns over intruding on a cultural practice.

In their letter to WAZA–citing a history of Taiji published by the town in 1979–the three conservation groups challenge that concern, along with the idea that the Taiji hunt is a longstanding historical and cultural practice: “[T]he first recorded dolphin drive was in 1933, with subsequent hunts occurring in 1936 and 1944. It was not until 1969 that dolphin drives have been conducted on a large scale. The history of the dolphin drives spans not so-called 400 years, but a mere 45.”

It is not clear whether an end to sales of live dolphins to marine parks would eventually bring an end the Taiji drive hunt. But it would dramatically reduce profits from marine mammal hunts.  Ric O’Barry has no doubt about what that would mean for the Taiji hunt.

“The sale of dolphins is what keeps it going. That is the economic underpinning of the slaughter,” he says. “I don’t think selling dolphin meat would be profitable anymore. It’s all about money, lots of money.”

Comments

  1. Don Meroni
    USA
    February 22, 11:50 am

    This is absolutely a disgraces ! So Horrific-in-humane The Japaneses PEOPLE SHOULD BE PROSECUTED for this action of endangering these animals existences on earth ! These animals help to save man when he is in trouble in the water, they defend man against sharks and save their life when drowning ! What a wonderful magnificent animal and then the Japanese do this to them! They are Immoral People and should be ashamed of themselves! I am sorry to think any human being could be so hateful! They make me sick!

  2. charles
    Malta
    February 11, 1:57 pm

    To stop this mas-care of these dolphins, is to boycott these Aquariums where they held for show.
    No people, no show.

  3. mike
    usa
    February 1, 6:23 pm

    Japan has never been known for having a conscience.

  4. Tanit Phoenix
    South Africa
    January 27, 2:17 am

    Are human beings truly the most sentient self aware intelligent conscious beings on this planet?
    We all do things we KNOW is not right, and if you act cruelly with that inner wisdom softly speaking to you, you are NOT acting in accordance to who or what we truly are… The guardians of this planet. Instinct drives all life, yet sentience allows us to be conscious of our actions. We KNOW when something is not right. If we what you are doing is harming or hurting another and the same goes with our environment and nature, then do not do it. Choosing to ignore that indicates we are not the most sentient self aware intelligent conscious creatures on earth.

    That goes with every single decision and choice we make in our lives.

    Awareness: the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns. In biological psychology, awareness is defined as a human’s or an animal’s perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event.
    Self-awareness: the capacity for introspection and the ability to reconcile oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.
    Sentience: the ability to be aware (feel, perceive, or be conscious) of one’s surroundings or to have subjective experiences. Sentience is a minimalistic way of defining consciousness.
    Sapience: often defined as wisdom, or the ability of an organism or entity to act with appropriate judgment, a mental faculty which is a component of intelligence.

  5. Kye Sangha
    Boulder Colorado USA
    January 26, 3:40 pm

    For 45 years the world has asked politely for the Japanese to stop their whaling and dolphin hunting. We have reasoned, pleaded, begged, shown them increasing science to support our views. Nothing has worked, so now we are going to use financial leverage. We are boycotting Japanese products until the slaughter of all cetaceans stops. If they insist on making money on these creatures, then we can take our money away from them.

  6. Anthony
    U.S.A.
    January 25, 10:02 am

    The only way to stop killing dolphin is to Boycott the barbarian Japanese marine products world wide.

  7. Lyndell
    Australia
    January 24, 3:51 am

    I’m devastated after reading this story, this has to stop

  8. Chisa
    NYC
    January 23, 2:12 pm

    Thank you for this excellent article and for covering this important issue. Readers – please consider supporting ELSA and other groups who are petitioning WAZA to help stop the Taiji hunts.
    https://www.change.org/petitions/dr-gerald-dick-please-support-japanese-groups-by-enforcing-waza-s-code-of-ethics

  9. Me
    North
    January 23, 7:38 am

    This is horrible. Dolphins are intelligent mammals. Selling dolphins to aquariums is not ancient tradition. This needs to stop.

    What also needs to stop is the American use of slaughter houses. Animals are being tortured and then killed inhumanely, processed like commodities. If we want to eat meat, so be it, but we should go back to small, local, farms where livestock live happy, comfortable lives until the end comes and then they are killed humanely. Until we do that, every meat eater buying meat at the local grocery store or fast food joint is more immoral than the hunters who kill their own animals for their family’s freezers, and no more moral than fur trappers.

  10. dimitria
    January 23, 5:27 am

    I love Japanese culture, and excellence in all they do.. This is the one thing I cannot understand.. How such a peaceful and safe country, that is so superior in it’s craftmanship and standards of excellence, cannot re examine the inclusion of dophin as part of the food chain. The dophin must be universally protected.. People should not have a choice.. Instead of making money off of the over fishing in our world to feed this over consumption model we’ve come to be dependent on across the globe. The desperation to include marine life in their diet must never lead to the acceptance of killing a Dolphin. Knowing the utter undeniable magnificence, and intelligence of this animal. I beg the Japanese gov’t to re evaluate the dependency on continuing to support the consumption of dolphin as part of their food chain.. It directly effects the compassion, intelligence, and evolutionary effectiveness of Japan as a culture we’ve come to know as a whole. And is inexcusable choice of marine consumption. The dolphin is a dolphin. It is not now nor ever should be food for humans.. I feel tragic sadness for both parties involved.

  11. jessica
    Canada
    January 23, 1:19 am

    Practices in life are meant to change… we are meant to grow… If we never changed our history…. It would be a darker place…
    Slavery, concentration camps, drowning special needs children, “witch” hunts were all dark aspects of human history… just because it was “tradition” doesn’t make it right. Humans may be clever but they aren’t very smart. We have more to learn from animals then they have to learn from us. The question isn’t are they more intelligent, the question is can they suffer. If someone came to your town, murdered your family, stole your children and forced them to perform tricks to entertain… how would you feel? How can humans be so selfish… To not care unless it impacts them directly… A dolphin swims 40 -80 Km a day and the thought of being placed in a concrete pool and made to do tricks for food is pure evil.

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

    ― Mahatma Gandhi

  12. chris
    germany
    January 22, 3:22 pm

    I am shamed of being part of the human race when I see people killing animals like they do the dolphins…I stopped eating tuna when I heard that dolphins are drowning due to the netts the fisherman use to catch the tuna…and now, adults are putting dolphins into an enclosure just to kill them…good, I feel sick to my stomach !!!!!

  13. Freddie Shogun Mercury Sr.
    USA...toward the right, in the middle.
    January 22, 10:17 am

    “…If you want to talk about cruelty, you couldn’t eat cows, pigs or any other living creatures.”

    Well there’s an idea. Any argument in favor of dolphin hunting that’s based around the idea that it’s no different than how other animals are killed for human usage is lost on this herbivore. It’s all bad to me but I digress.

    Saying “drop a bomb on Japan” and spewing racist remarks aren’t going to help end this and only hurt the cause. Animal abuse/slaughter is horrible but so is racism. Regarding the argument that fishing is the livelihood of their community: I simply don’t care. Find something else to do for a living. The same goes for fur trappers, meat packers and factory farmers. In my opinion, you can’t just keep doing horrific, inhumane and environmentally cruel things because it’s part of your “culture”. Using “culture” as an excuse to be a jerk is the worst cop out. I’d like to think we have evolved beyond that, but I guess it’s true that people are just the worst.

    Anyway, who goes to Sea World? Does anybody seriously go to Sea World?!

  14. Malvina Carran
    January 22, 2:04 am

    Thanks for covering this thing. Dolphins are very nice and friendly animal creatures. I think , we must not do something to harm them instead we must protect them. I guess, I will be opposed to any drive hunt. Dolphins must not be used for economic hunts or even for sale.

  15. Suzie
    January 21, 9:05 pm

    Slavery was a long-standing tradition in the U.S.

    Traditions change, times change and awareness is vital. A culture isn’t defined by it’s past practices.

  16. Truth
    US
    January 21, 6:51 pm

    After reading through some of the comments, I feel the need to remind (or let it be known to) some people that NO zoo or aquarium or theme park in the US is allowed to take dolphins from Taiji. The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits capture and/or import of cetaceans to any US park, especially those caught by inhumane means. This means receiving any dolphin or whale from Taiji is illegal. Their biggest market (and seemingly only market) when it comes to dolphin purchases for captivity is in Asia itself…China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, etc.

    And just for the sake of putting it out there, in The Cove O’Barry contradicts himself and his message. First he tells you that “aquariums all over the world” are the cause of the dolphin hunts. Later he tells you that even if the fishermen were paid even money for the dolphins they sell (to dolphinariums) in order to stop the hunts, they wouldn’t do it since it’s for pest control (and meat). This is a statement that comes directly from the fishermen themselves. So everyone who thinks its solely (or mostly) for marine parks needs to do some fact checking.

    But either way, should it stop? Yes. Will it? Probably not since the Japanese government supports it.

  17. dennis
    New Jersey
    January 21, 6:29 pm

    Unless you are a vegetarian, don’t wear leather shoes, don’t own a leather belt, have no animal by-products in your home, and do so out of protest against killing beef cattle, chickens, pigs, (and insects if they are regulars on the table of your ancestors)–you need to get a life.
    Good God, is this what the American consumer has become?
    And I noticed that some of you have no problem with killing and eating fish. What god but you in charge?
    I can only apologize to the Japanese for the stupidity of my fellow Americans, including the stupidity and gross insensitivity of ambassador Kennedy.

  18. Alexander Levin
    United Kingdom
    January 21, 5:43 pm
  19. Jay T
    Virginia USA
    January 21, 3:21 pm

    These so called “fishermen” of Taiji need to find species of FISH to catch for their livelihood and stop this greedy barbaric madness of drive hunting a species of MAMMAL!

  20. Dolores
    USA
    January 21, 2:02 pm

    We need to stop protecting Japan militarily and demand that they shoulder the burden of their own defense from China. It couldn’t get any worse.

  21. Daniel
    United States
    January 21, 1:54 pm

    Most of you people are idiots …for many of these fishermen dolphin hunting is their LIVELIHOOD meaning that they hunt to survive. telling them they cant fish anymore because of some new foreign law against poaching is ridiculous. Do conservationists have alternatives for the fishermen once they are supposed to stop providing for their families??? We need to worry about our OWN species first.

    …so the ones saying that its “mass murder” or “hang the japs” are the real fools here and need to get their priorities straight and stop spewing out hate based off of one documentary or this dumb article

  22. Peter Spodzieja
    Canada
    January 21, 1:26 pm

    In a world of diminishing ecosystems worldwide this act of premeditated brutal killing of highly intelligent marine mammals has no place in our society. Education, Science and a new Generation of people with heart, awareness and understanding is on the rise to pressure Governments to ban this act of cruelty. Boycotts worldwide of everything what reads like Made in Japan would be my Choice of Weaponry. It is very effective and worked in many cases around the world. The people perpetrating the killing can’t be changed. They are driven by greed and brainwashed by their masterminds, however the many good people in Japan and worldwide can help by continue using the social media and bringing awareness of this very sad human behavior. The irony is that Marine mammals like the Dolphins and other species like birds provide immense knowledge to science which was used to fight criminals and make flying safer for all of us. They don’t deserve to die from the hand of greedy humans.

  23. Dee
    US
    January 21, 10:56 am

    Many of these comments are mind boggling to me. Saying we should drop a bomb on Japan for their barbaric ways is so ignorant! They are slaughtering dolphins for food, just as we fish and slaughter other animals. Just because dolphins have been known to be of higher intelligence makes it somehow barbaric? The farming techniques used in the U.S. are horrific! And that’s not just for food, it’s for clothing as well…. hello consumer greed. They also hunt dolphins to sell to places like Seaworld… hello? Who goes to places like Seaworld? Americans! What about the Canadian Seal Hunt for their fur? Now that is barbaric. Would you like to agree that Canada should be bombed for clubbing baby seals to death for food and fur that American’s consume? Maybe we should be bombed for being so damn ignorant. I do not agree with the Japanese hunting dolphins, but I also do not agree with the US factory farming traditions and skinning animals alive so we can wear their fur as a fashion statement. Maybe you should look at the actions you take (or lack of actions) before making such biased judgements.

  24. Steve Garan
    United States
    January 21, 10:50 am

    South American Fisherman are killing dolphins a hundred fold compared to this … From Tuna netting Technics to harpooning Dolphins to use as Shark bait for Shark Fin Harvesting. This is 200-250 Dolphins … A mere drop in the bucket in perspective to the overall world slaughter of Dolphins and Porpoises … The Japanese eat and sell these Dolphins … The Peruvian Fisherman illegally skin them alive then throw what they don’t want overboard … All of this is Absolutely Horrifying !!! …

  25. Dhananjaya
    Sri Lanka
    January 21, 10:22 am

    As a world we have to force those japs to cease their cruelty. BOYCOTT japanese products possible.

  26. Jane Finlow
    United States
    January 21, 10:11 am

    Petition the Japanese Ministry of Fisheries.

    https://www.contact.maff.go.jp/maff/form/114e.html

  27. John Finns
    England
    January 21, 10:08 am

    Unless they stop the murder of Dolphins in Taiji the world will think the Japanese are ignorant barbarians.

    I wish someone with a rifle and telescopic sight would shoot the fishermen.

  28. S Keogh
    Dublin, Ireland
    January 21, 10:08 am

    Thank you for covering this story and bringing awareness!

  29. krysign
    January 21, 9:57 am

    unfortunately it’s not only in Japan… Faroe Islands’ whale hunt just as bad, but less known :( I’m ashamed to belong to the same species as those “fishermen”

  30. kelly
    January 21, 9:21 am

    We should have finished-off this “species” the first time-December 7th!

    Boycott Japan…and pressure the US to do more to stop this tragic, barbaric slaughter!

  31. Tim Zimmermann
    January 21, 8:24 am

    Well, the totals are in. 52 dolphins taken into captivity; 41 dolphins killed for meat. Perfect example of how the balance of incentives in Taiji has shifted in favor of marine park demand for bottlenose dolphins. https://www.facebook.com/timzimmermannwriting/posts/10202982834429095

  32. Patrick schafer
    Brazil
    January 21, 6:48 am

    Shame on you Japan for allowing this! Mother nature will destroy you since you will not learn to respect it. Tsunami, earthquake and your own stupid radioactive waste will kill you in the end! Don’t you get it?!!

    What i really would love to do is punch a japanese in the face and kill all this japanese cockroaches! You are making the people of all over the world hate japanese people! I will pay a sniper to kill the fishermen!

  33. Ann Geoghegan
    Australia
    January 21, 6:36 am

    Great article. Its good to create an awareness of how Seaworld and other such marine parks take these mammals.

  34. taro
    Tokyo
    January 21, 6:22 am
  35. Nicki
    United Kingdom
    January 21, 6:18 am

    Thank you for a very informative read. Some of the statements coming from Japanese officials really sadden me. The claim that tears pods apart and selling the youngsters/pretty ones to aquariums is the same as eating cows just makes an intelligent and advanced country look ignorant and backwards. Yoko Ono has issued a brilliant statement, imploring for them to look at the effect that a few’s actions may have on the country as a whole. Some of the hate I see directed at the Japanese people is scary.

    Surely by now, the public of Japan must be aware of what is happening in Taiji. I strongly believe it is their responsibility also to speak up and make a change.

    I would also like to point out that this ‘slaughter culture’ isn’t unique to Japan alone. this also occurs in places like Peru and also the Faroe Islands, which are particularly barbaric. Shark finning and illegal whaling are also issues that need to be hitting the media much more regularly, before these fishermen totally destroy our ocean’s already fragile eco-structure.

  36. Emily Putnam
    London
    January 21, 5:58 am

    Watching grown ups lie so blatantly about their reasons for such behaviour is ridiculous – their children don’t stand a chance. This is not about tradition and culture, it is clearly all about profit. Perhaps if Japan think so little of the US opinion (for example Caroline Kennedy’s messages – Coca Cola might like to pull out of their sponsorship of the Tokyo Olympics – for example.

  37. Rick MG
    January 21, 5:19 am

    The most common argument supporting the dolphin drives is that people eat cows in the USA, UK, Australia, wherever else they’re protesting from. Meat is meat, the whole world eats it, it’s hypocritical to criticise the Japanese for killing dolphins to feed their starving orphans.

    The Taiji dolphin drives aren’t about food. It’s all about the captivity trade, a young healthy bottlenose fetching up to US$150,000. This is what sustains the Taiji dolphin hunts.

    So why do they slaughter the dolphins instead of setting them free once they’ve chosen a few to live a lifetime of slavery for our entertainment? Corruption and a dying conservative regime. A few people run the show in Taiji, including the Taiji Whale Museum owner, the mayor, the Fisheries Union chiefs, prefecture officials, and a few more in the big city offices. And then there’s the Yakuza, sticking their greedy fingers in the pie for a slice of profit.

    It isn’t about culture. It isn’t about food and the natural order of animal eats animal here on Earth.

    It’s about money and profit for a few. THAT is what makes the Taiji dolphin drives so abhorrent, so morally reprehensible.

    It’s wrong to take orangutans from the Borneo wild to sell to zoos and private collectors. It’s illegal to poach ivory. You can’t snatch tiger cubs from the wild for pets. So why is it acceptable for a small group of Japanese to do the same with dolphins? Imagine if a group of Africans rounded up lions, took the cubs to sell for profit, then slaughtered the rest of the pride?

    Anyone who supports the drives, or makes excuses for why they should be allowed to continue, or mumbles bs about culture and tradition, should hang their heads in shame.

    ‘The greatness of a [planet] and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’ – Mahatma Gandhi

  38. Shawndra
    United Kingdom
    January 21, 5:15 am

    It’s also worth noting that this is *not*, as the Japanese claim, a “centuries old” tradition. Drive hunts like this only started in 1969. Last time I checked, 50 years didn’t qualify as “centuries” So, so much for that argument, Japan.

  39. Sam
    india
    January 21, 4:58 am

    Ashamed to be human.

  40. Christi Anderson
    Tucson, AZ
    January 21, 4:04 am

    Please remove any financial gain from this sickening atrocity. I can’t believe that any society involved in a gruesome blood sport like this should even have the right or the audacity to do it with the world looking on in disgust. It’s just so awful that the dolphins can’t fight back. It needs to end now.

  41. Karsten Schneider
    Germany
    January 21, 3:53 am

    How can this be called “fishing”. Dolphins aren’t fishes. They are very intelligent mammals with self awareness like apes or humans. Would it be also fishing if we kill people swimming in the water ? I would call it “killing”, if we force a self aware being to death

  42. Megan
    United States
    January 21, 3:07 am

    This is a very serious and tragic situation for the Dolphins. With that in mind why, considering what is contained in the article, would you use a stock photo of “happy dolphins” as the cover photo? That is a gross misrepresentation of what is happening at the cove and is an insult to the dolphins that are being kidnapped, abused and murdered there.

  43. alban vinevel
    brisbane australia
    January 21, 3:02 am

    Human beings! we are the worst. Yes there are the few that find it in their heart and humanity to protect the planet, but the majority would rather get fat earning a living, and taking their kids along to water parks to “learn” about dolphins…yeh right!

    Personally I despise the human ritual of ogling at these beautiful creatures through man-made enclosures. Zoos, aquariums etc…are disgusting, and no different to strip clubs and brothels.

    Organisations that market and facilitate these awful spectacles of pompous performing creatures are no different to the idiots that traffic humans against their will.

    Yet some how, we have no difficulty in separating ourselves from the plight of these dolphins and many more of the earths magnificent creatures.

    The more we visit these prisons where they hold these beautiful creatures, the more we perpetuate the very practices we are commenting on in this space.

    Living beings on our planet belong in their own natural habitat…not locked up in cages built of wood, concrete, steel, wire and glass.

    I wonder why we don’t find the issue important enough to implement some measure of economic boycott or a trade embargo!! It’s been enforced onto countries in the past to topple governments, get rid of dictators etc…

    Why isn’t the plight of innocent, helpless and magnificent creatures like the dolphins of Taiji important enough to take the same measure?

    I know we need to fight this through activism, against this and similar practices…so who needs a hand?, where do I join? I’m a photography student majored in photojournalism and documentary photography….I have causes, but I need a job

  44. Justice White
    Canada
    January 21, 2:59 am

    This is the most cruel thing on the earth!
    Far more important than Tibet situation because dolphins are far more intelligent and precious than asian.
    Those inferior people should be kept colonized and ruled by superior people, and only we have right to hunt whales only for oils and throw away their bodies because we are superior people.

  45. William J Senior
    United States
    January 21, 2:55 am

    The Japanese, as well as a number of other Asian peoples, are by far the greatest and most heartless perpetrators of crimes against nature and in turn, all life on our struggling planet. One can only hope that in this life, or perhaps one beyond this, they will be held accountable for and ultimately be made to pay for what they have done.

  46. Lorraine Vega
    January 21, 2:32 am

    The coverage this weekend and the pictures of the dolphins made me cry. I’m appalled by the fact that there are people out there that can be so cruel. And all for money? I’m disgusted by this behavior and by the arrogance of the Japanese in refusing to stop this horrible practice.

    I wish there was something I could do to help these precious animals… I just don’t know what. :(

  47. BM
    United States
    January 21, 1:11 am

    The question here is what can we do to stop this? Yes to NOT visiting Marine Parks and say NO to Swimming with Dolphins. It bothered me the whole day knowing that this is wrong but there is “nothing” that we could do to end this (?). I am seriously considering volunteering / joining the Cove Guardians and try to at least be useful for something. I have hope that this can end.

  48. Rob
    Columbus OH
    January 21, 1:01 am

    The people that are doing this suck. No conscience at all.

  49. Daniel
    colombia
    January 21, 12:50 am

    thats why we are destroying our planet , i cannot understand how the ignorance of people is going to be our curse, those people should go to an university, get educated, and stop doing things that has no sense at all !!!!

  50. Jessica Alba
    USA
    January 21, 12:10 am

    Lets drop another bomb and get rid if japan for once and for all. After what they did in Pear Harbour cowardly kill so many soldiers . I dislike like then then and now I DISLIKE THEN NOW. They were once a country of loyalty caring and traditions and now they turn into MASSACRES MURDERERS AND LIARS not to mention GREEDY !!
    I SAID DROP THE BOMB AND SCREW UP JAPAN .
    BOYCOTT THE OLYMPICS IN 2020. I hope they all die from radioactive airborne .

  51. Yvonne B
    United States
    January 21, 12:06 am

    Here is a suggested list of ways of how we can be a voice for these dolphins:
    http://www.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/what-you-can-do.html

  52. Zig Pope
    January 20, 11:32 pm

    Not only is this barbaric and sadistic, these people are liars as well.

    This hunt is NOT centuries old and shame on these men for even attempting to defend their greedy, greedy, behavior.

  53. Michael M.
    USA
    January 20, 9:21 pm

    As a teenager I worked at Sea World. My job entailed selling fish to tourists to feed bottle nose dolphins in the “Dolphin Pool”. I used to cherish getting to work at 6am and rubbing them down before the park opened. They eventually became irritated by all the tourist and had to be teased with fish to come over to the sides. Little did I know at that age how or even really why the dolphins, whales, sea lions, penguins were all there. As an educated and grown adult, I am disgusted. We claim to be the most intelligent animal on the planet. Yet we purposely torture, capture and kill other life which are extremely intelligent in their own right. For what? F****** money. Exploitation of intelligent species for profit. That is slavery and murder. When it comes to body mass to brain ratio, it is a scientific fact that Bottlenose dolphins have among the largest brains in the animal kingdom. Characterized by their advanced communication skills, they have also been considered to be self aware with the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror. Do you think they are recognizing they are being enslaved and murdered by humans? Do you think they know why? Is money an except-able answer. No its not, and we know it. Is it except-able when we do it to each other for a mere buck? No its not and we know that too. Funny how when we ask each other “why” when it happens to a the human species. What makes this any different?

  54. micheala Johnson
    United States
    January 20, 9:06 pm

    thank you for covering this sad and devastating story. I believe we are beyond this horrific mind set, its time to put marine parks to rest. Toys its heart breaking.

  55. Gareth Jenkinson
    UK
    January 20, 7:43 pm

    Justifying the slaughter by saying we all eat meat is true but we as a species don’t eat other human beings and the scientific evidence is mounting about dolphin intelligence. With possibly a complex language etc. Some countries have also declared dolphins non-human persons, so we possibly can make a valid claim to keep dolphins of the menu and out of marine parks. I believe in time this disgusting and barbaric practice will cease, just like slavery and equal rights for women (well in most educated countries)
    Shame on Japan for allowing this to continue in the face of world public outrage and revulsion.

  56. Kim
    NH
    January 20, 7:14 pm

    If it has become primarily economic, how many fishermen are there in that town? Could we, the international community, raise enough money to pay them more money to close the cove to any dolphin round up and hunt than they would earn selling them? Whaling used to be part of New England’s culture too, thankfully times change.

  57. Dawn Scholes
    January 20, 6:17 pm

    Thanks NatGeo for covering this atrocity in Taiji Cove.

  58. Stetson
    Campinas, Brasil
    January 20, 6:13 pm

    As a high school biology teacher, I have used the film “the Cove” in my class for several years to teach about various aspects of ecology and conservation biology. It is disconcerting to me to find that this slaughter continues today; I know many years of past students would undoubtedly feel the same way. Nevertheless, I truly believe that education is the key to change. We need to keep putting this in the news and keep up the good fight. My full support goes out to Rick O’Barry, the Sea Shepherd, and everyone else whose tireless efforts are making a difference.

  59. Karin Schaerer
    Switzerland
    January 20, 6:09 pm

    Thank you for covering that story! Only with going out and showing to the people, we might have the luck, that people turn to awareness. Only with reports, the marine mammals might have the luck, not getting wiped out from this planet, by greedy mankind, claiming at tradition, which is 45 years old. NOT 400 years! 45 Years!! Money is the Tradition and nothing else! This horrific Cruelty must end!!

  60. Maryann Balletti
    United States
    January 20, 4:59 pm

    The conservation groups’ research shows the claim of Taiji’s tradition and culture are false. This is about pure greed. The annual drive is brutal, barbaric and inhumane. This very large group as well as the baby albino who was taken from it’s mother – documented by Sea Shepard’s live stream which exposes Taiji Whale Museum’s statement that it was “rescued” as a lie – are forcing the killing cove back into the media spotlight where it needs to stay until the annual drives cease. Every single person can help this cause. DO NOT BUY A TICKET and help educate others who may not understand the connection between captivity and dolphin slaughter.

  61. Laura
    Mesa, AZ
    January 20, 4:45 pm

    The rare albino baby is blind and deaf and they no longer want it. This is a sick industry that uses living beings for profit. What kind of people can steal infants and juveniles away from mothers? What kind of people can slaughter an entire pod in such an inhumane way while the ones choosen for captivity watch? The ocean is over fished, whole ecosystems are collapsing…Orcas are virtually non existent in the waters around Japan because of the captivity business. The question we need to ask now is do we want the same to happen to the dolphins? This needs to stop now before it’s to late..

  62. patricia
    NYC
    January 20, 4:43 pm

    I do feel that the vast majority of people that watched as the divers that were literally in the waters face-to-face with these incredibly gentle creatures that were being mentally , and emotionally tortured was hard for anyone to witness. It’s important to realize, that everyone one of us that pays to go to” swim with the dolphins” helps to fund these practices. Please, do not participate in this heartbreak any further, it has no place in a modern world.

  63. Cindy Baldwin
    Portola Ca. USA
    January 20, 4:08 pm

    Thanks for this well written story of truth Tim!! I have been horrified about what goes on in Taiji, thanks to Ric bringing it to everyone’s attention in THE COVE. People need to write all the dolphin parks and tell them how wrong it is to hold these creatures captive, and that you won’t go to their parks!! The only time a dolphin should be at one of these parks or aquariums is because it’s being rehabilitated for sickness or injuries!!

  64. Valerie C
    USA
    January 20, 2:18 pm

    I’m mortified and stunned this is going on at all let alone such massive numbers and for so long I wish there was something I could do and wish the media would do more

  65. AnimuX
    January 20, 1:11 pm

    Taiji’s dolphin drives have nothing to do with “tradition”. ** According to “The History of Taiji,” edited and published by Taiji town in 1979, the first recorded dolphin drive was in 1933, with subsequent hunts occurring in 1936 and 1944. It was not until 1969 that dolphin drives have been conducted on a large scale. **

  66. Sulia
    January 20, 12:21 pm

    Psychological torment, physical abuse and brutal death should never be condoned as cultural tradition!

  67. cheryl huxted
    canada
    January 20, 11:55 am

    EXCELLENT,

  68. Green Bean
    January 20, 11:18 am

    Thank you for covering this story. It is important that we realize where our captive dolphins come from.

  69. krista berish
    usa
    January 20, 9:57 am

    The dolphin hunt is not humane as they clim it is.It is as inhumane as you can get just watch the video and see for yourself.Is a lifetime of captivity humane? They lie to their people and the world.They are just giving japan a bad name.DISGUSTING GREED

  70. Wendy Lyden
    United States
    January 20, 8:57 am

    I am horrified by this atrocity that I have been following for the past nine years. Each year I pray it ends; however, in the last several months, despite being 50 years old, it has become crystal clear to me that this hunt is about greed and money. It has taken me 50 years to realize that all evil in this world revolves around money, and until we stop the lucrative deals that these fisherman/Taiji Whale Museum are procuring, this hunt will go on. I hope that major networks, like CNN would air The Cove as they did Blackfish, Once a business is financially affected, change can begin. It is my hope that this is the last season I dread September…this cruelty must end.