Posted: 23 Mar. 2005
Revised: 29 Aug. 2011

March 14 the Council of Taiji Town of Japan decided to export four male and four female bottlenose dolphins that were captured during a drive fishery operation in October last year and have been warehoused at the Taiji Whale Museum since. The dolphins will be sold to an aquarium in Talien City, China.

The selling price of the eight dolphins is 42,000,000 yen, which equals approximately $403,000 USD. The trade will be carried out through dealers in New Zealand and has been described by the Taiji Town Council as an academic/scientific exchange.

At some point, the Taiji Whale Museum, which is operated by Taiji Town, loaned one of their orcas to the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium, but this is the fist time the museum has made dolphins available for sale. Taiji Town is selling the dolphins to create a new source of revenue in response to the decrease in paying visitors at the Taiji Whale Museum. Elsa Nature Conservancy and its coalition groups and partner working groups are deeply concerned that this could be the debut of a new dolphin-trading facility in Japan. As stated by the Mayor of Taiji:

“If Taiji Town can promote international, academic exchanges by selling cetaceans, we will continue to do so.

In Taiji a live dolphin reportedly sells for up to 5,000,000 yen, which, at today’s rate, equals about $47,000 USD. This is much higher than in Futo where, last November, a live dolphin was sold for between 380,000 and 400,000 yen. This is less than $3900 USD.

By purchasing dolphins from the dolphin hunters, the dolphin captivity industry is playing a major role in sustaining the Japanese dolphin slaughter. The dolphin massacres will continue for as long as aquariums reward the hunters with thousands of dollars for animals that are deemed suitable for commercial exploitation in dolphin shows and captive dolphin swim programs. If the planned trade goes through, we see great risk that the Taiji Whale Museum will continue to sell and export dolphins from the drive hunts, under the deceiving pretext of scientific exchanges.

The Japanese Law of Social Education defines museums as facilities intended for educating the public to various issues. The Law of Museums defines museums as facilities meant to carry out research, collect data, store the data and display it to the public. The museum’s commercial trade in dolphins can be disputed by pointing out the fact that capturing wild animals in a cruel and inhumane manner and selling them at a huge profit is in no way incorporated in the museum’s functions and responsibilities as outlined in the Law of Museums.

The following points are relevant when considering the animal welfare threats connected to the suggested dolphin trade:

  1. The cruel practice of capturing dolphins through the method of drive fishery will continue and increase unless the trade in these dolphins is stopped.
  2. This is not an academic exchange but rather a business enterprise aimed at selling dolphins at an enormous profit.
  3. The Taiji Whale Museum claims to be an educational institution. The suggested commercial trade in dolphins contradicts this claim.

In order to carry out the trade, Taiji Town first has to acquire an export permit from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. This gives us time to object to the trade.

We couldn’t stop the trade, and since 2005 Taiji has actively continued the trade of live dolphins captured by the drive hunt. The numbers of dolphins exported from Japan (mainly Taiji) and the countries that bought the dolphins have been increasing. See the tables.

The numbers of dolphins exported from Japan (mainly Taiji) and the countries that bought the dolphins

Please send a letter of protest to:

Mr. Kazutaka Sangen,
Town Mayor of Taiji
Fax: +81-735-59-2801

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

The Ministry of the Environment
Minister of the Environment
Fax: +81-3-3581-3003

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
Fax: +81-3-6734-3589
Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau

Thanks so much for your help.