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History of Taiji’s Cetacean Kill

Taiji Japan

The Town Without Pity

Taiji, Japan is located on the eastern shore of Wakayama Prefecture.  The coastal area there is stunning in its beauty, but unfortunately is tainted by the blood and suffering of thousands upon thousands of dolphins and other small cetaceans.  There is evidence that whale and dolphin hunting has occurred in the area for centuries.  What is new though is the “drive hunting.”

Cultural Tradition?

The authorities in Taiji and Wakayama would like for you to believe that this form of hunting is just as ancient, but that simply is not true.  The drive hunt was developed in the 1970s.  It is not even as old as most of the men who practice it.  Humans like to make a big deal about “culture” and old customs.  Japan is particularly wedded to this ideal.  However, just because 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 wrong.  Human slavery is a good 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 it is cultural is a lie.

Only a few countries today allow the commercial and/or widespread killing of cetaceans.  Countries that were once major whaling nations have ended the practice.   Iceland, Norway, the Danish Faroe Islands, and Japan continue to practice large-scale whaling.  Japan is the most flagrant of the bunch.  The nation of Japan sends commercial whaling fleets into the North Pacific and Southern Ocean each year.  Japan also authorizes and supports the hunting of whales and smaller cetaceans in its coastal waters.  Sea Shepherd is not anti-Japanese.  We are simply equal in our disgust for cetacean killing, no matter what nation is doing it.

dolphin killing

Killing Nation, Killing Town


As many as 20,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed in Japanese waters each year[1]. Most (18,000 of that number) are Dall’s porpoises killed at sea by harpoon in the northern part of the country.  The March 11, 2011, tsunami destroyed much of the infrastructure associated with this slaughter.  It remains to be seen if the slaughter will revive to its pre-earthquake numbers.

Taiji accounts for approximately 2,000 of that number.  In recent years, the killed and captured numbers as reported by the fishermen have been averaging about 1,600.  The killing season is actually 12 months long, beginning on September 1.  Usually, the drive-hunts end in March and the fishermen target other species.  The Fishermen’s Union (FU) will submit a request for a permit to the Governor of Wakayama Prefecture.  The Governor then issues the permit.  There is no evidence that science or sustainability is given any serious consideration in the permit process.  It appears that the FU simply tells the Governor what it wants to take and the Governor issues the permit.  This year (September 2011 – August 2012) the Taiji FU has a permitted quota for 2,165 dolphins and other small whales[2].

Most of the dolphins and small whales captured in the Taiji FU drive hunts are killed and the meat is sold in for human consumption.  Respected scientists the world over report on the high levels of mercury and other contaminants in the meat of these animals, but many Taiji locals ignore these warnings.  They often say that there are plenty of old people around who ate dolphin all their lives, and they unfortunately accept the propaganda served to them by the Japanese government that the levels and threat of mercury in the meat is not significant.

Taiji is a very small town, even by small-town standards.  Residents of neighboring small towns often make fun of Taiji residents, calling them “backwards” and “unsophisticated.”  This view of Taiji does not only exist because of the dolphin hunts, but for many of those who know that Taiji hunts, kills, and eats dolphins, the hunt is just further proof for them of Taiji’s deserved reputation as “behind the times.”  Within the small town/village of Taiji there are approximately 28 men involved in the dolphin hunts.  There are many supporters of the hunt to be found in Taiji, but there are detractors as well.  Not everyone in Taiji appreciates the negative attention these men bring to their town and to their country.

Sea Shepherd is committed to continuing to shine an international spotlight on the town of Taiji and this infamous Cove in order to bring worldwide pressure to shut this atrocity down.


[1] The actual numbers each year vary.  20,000 is on the high end.  The reported numbers in recent years are dropping.

[2] Bottlenose dolphin – 652,  Striped Dolphin – 450,  Spotted Dolphin – 400,  Risso’s Dolphin – 275,  Long-finned Pilot Whale – 184,  Pacific White-sided Dolphin – 134,  False Killer Whale – 70.

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