Cove Guardians - Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Sea Shepherd's Dolphin Defense Campaign in Taiji, Japan Donate Now

The town of Taiji

taiji-cetacean-kill-taiji-cove-400wGeographically, Taiji is located in Southeastern Japan within the Wakayama Prefecture. The Taiji coast is renowned for its scenic beauty and is a popular holiday destination in the summer months. However, this picturesque town conceals a dark secret – the blood and suffering of thousands upon thousands of dolphins is on their hands. Tourists travel from all areas of Japan to visit Taiji; little do they know, they are swimming in the deathbed of thousands of innocent beings.

Cultural Tradition?

Evidence shows that whale and dolphin hunting has occurred within the area for centuries, however the practice of dolphin “drive hunting” developed in the 1970s. It is argued by the dolphin hunters of Taiji that this form of commercial hunting is an ancient practice; however that simply is not true. The practice of drive hunting is not even as old as some of the men who practice it. 

Humans place importance on “culture” and old customs - Japan is particularly wedded to this ideal.  However, the fact that a practice has been going on for a long time does not make it right; nor does it give it special status to continue if it is found to be morally wrong.  Human slavery is a strong example of something that occurred for a very long time in human history and has since been determined to be wrong.  In the case of the drive hunting of cetaceans, though, there is not even a legitimate claim to antiquity.  To claim that the dolphin drive hunt is cultural is a lie. Taiji’s drive hunt emerged in the 1970s, just as the global aquarium industry was beginning to boom. The hunt is continued for one reason only - greed.

Worldwide, there are only a few countries that still allow the commercial or widespread killing of cetaceans today. Other countries that were once major whaling nations have since ended the practice.  Iceland, Norway, the Danish Faroe Islands, and Japan continue to practice large-scale commercial whaling.  Japan is the most flagrant of the bunch.  The nation of Japan sends commercial whaling fleets into the North Pacific and Southern Oceans each year.  Japan also authorizes and supports the hunting of whales and smaller cetaceans in its coastal waters. 

Sea Shepherd is not anti-Japanese or opposed to any nation or group of people.  We are against the killing of cetaceans, no matter the nationality of the hunters.

Killing Nation, Killing Town

taiji-cetacean-kill-121712-7-red-cove-9476-400wAs many as 20,000 dolphins, whales and porpoises are killed in Japanese waters each year. Most (18,000 of that number) are Dall’s porpoises killed at sea by harpoon in Northern Japan. 

On March 11, 2011, a tsunami destroyed much of the infrastructure associated with this slaughter.  It is yet to be seen if the slaughter will be restored to its pre-earthquake numbers.

Taiji accounts for approximately 2,000 of that figure, depending on the quota that is set yearly. In recent years, the captures for captivity and death numbers have been averaging about 1,600.  The annual dolphin drive hunt season runs for a staggering six months, beginning on September 1 and running through to March of the following year. Coastal whaling is then undertaken for the remaining six months of the year in which small whaling vessels carry out harpooning. 

Each year the dolphin hunters request a permit to hunt dolphins in Taiji and the Governor of Wakayama Prefecture then issues the hunters with an approved permit. There is no evidence that science or sustainability are given any serious consideration during the permit process.  It appears that the hunters simply request and suggest the number of dolphins they want to take and the Governor quickly issues the permit. 

Most of the dolphins and small whales captured in the Taiji dolphin drive hunts are killed and the meat is sold for human consumption, though the number of dolphins captured for the captive industry has risen substantially in recent years, due to the growing international demand from marine parks. Respected scientists around the world warn of the high levels of mercury and other contaminants found in dolphin and whale meat, however many Taiji locals ignore these warnings and continue to consume the meat. A common argument is that there are plenty of old people in the town who have consumed dolphin all their lives; unsuspecting people are unfortunately led by propaganda served to them by the Japanese government, which continues to claim that the mercury in dolphins and whale meat is not a significant threat.

Taiji is a very small town, even by small town standards. There are approximately 28 men involved in the dolphin hunts.  Though there are many supporters of the drive hunts, there are also many people who oppose them. Not everyone in Taiji appreciates the negative attention attracted by the handful of dolphin hunters, not only in their town but also in their country. These migrating dolphins do not belong to Taiji; they are citizens of the world and of the oceans.

Sea Shepherd is committed to continuing to shine an international spotlight on the town of Taiji and its infamous dolphin killing cove in order to apply worldwide pressure to shut this atrocity down.