Annual Catch-Quotas (2012-2013)

The Japan Fisheries Agency (JFA) established annual catch quotas in 1993, defining the number and species of the dolphin that can be hunted. Unfortunately, in setting these quotas, the advice of marine biologists was ignored; and these quotas have not changed in more than 10 years.

pdf_icon Changes of Catch quota of Small Cetaceans 1993-2013

The first revision of the Annual Catch-Quotas:

In 2007, the catch-quotas were revised for the first time, and the total number was decreased from 21,120 to 20,826 (decrease of 294 animals). However, the number for striped dolphins and spotted dolphins in Wakayama was left unchanged, and that of false-killer whales in Wakayama was increased from 40 to 70 animals. In Okinawa the catch-quota for false-killer whales was doubled. Shizuoka and Chiba prefectures were still allotted quotas to hunt striped dolphins, although neither prefecture had captured this species more than ten years. Moreover, Shizuoka received a new quota to catch 10 false killer whales; and Shizuoka, Iwate, and Wakayama prefectures were given new quotas for 360 Pacific white-sided dolphins. These changes to the catch-quotas were severely criticized by marine biologists, environmentalists and animal protection organizations worldwide.

The second revision of Annual Catch-Quotas in 2012:

pdf_icon Annual Catch-Quotas(2012-2013)

In 2012, five years after the first revision, the catch-quotas were again examined by the JFA. The agency decided to stop giving quotas to hunt striped dolphins to Shizuoka and Chiba prefectures in 2017. While positive, this decision clearly came too late, for striped dolphins have virtually disappeared in the waters of Chiba and Shizuoka. Fishermen in Shizuoka and Chiba prefectures have not hunted a single striped dolphin for nearly 20 years. Why did the Fishery Agency wait for five years to stop hunting striped dolphins there? There will be little influence on fishermen, if the quotas are taken away from them in this hunting season.

We at ELSA Nature Conservancy question whether catch-quotas are ever used to enforce catch violations. In 2008, Taiji, Wakayama prefecture, captured 510 striped dolphins, though its official quota for striped dolphins was 450 animals. In short, 60 dolphins were overhunted, clearly resulting in a catch violation. However, no violation was documented. The Fisheries Agency announced that the quotas assigned to Chiba and Shizuoka had been transferred to Wakayama and Okinawa prefectures.

Okinawa hunted five false killer whales in 2008, and its catch-quota was 20 animals. Total number of false killer whales hunted in Okinawa 2000~2008 is 38 animals. Its average annual catch is four animals. There is no reason for Okinawa to demand more catch-quotas. However, if the quotas were transferred only to Taiji, it would be more obvious that Taiji acquired the quotas to allot them to the violated catches. Was Okinawa used to hide violation in Taiji? According to the Fisheries Agency, Shizuoka and Chiba have the right to decide how to use their quotas, and adjustments of the catch-quotas among prefectures cannot be considered illegal. The point was whether the transfers of catch quotas were made after or before the catch violations. If before, exceeded catches are not regarded as violation.

To get rid of a loophole and avoid catch violations, the Fisheries Agency should take away the quotas for striped dolphins from Shizuoka and Chiba prefectures immediately.

The total number of catch-quotas has been decreasing since 2008, so we may expect that a gradual decrease would continue every year. However, again, the number of catch-quotas for striped dolphins and spotted dolphins in Wakayama, as well as that for false killer whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins, was decided to be left as it was until 2017. So, part of original inappropriate catch quotas set up in 1993 would again continue to be enforced.

The second revision of annual catch quotas in 2012 put more weight on fishermen’s convenience. They did not consider the ecology of dolphins as wild animals, as we would prefer, or even the conservation of dolphins as ‘natural resource’.

The JFA has established catch-quotas for dolphins, which have decreased in the past several years. However, we at ELSA do not believe that these quotas protect dolphins, even as a ‘natural resource,’ as they do not consider the advice of marine biologists and are not used for enforcement in cases of overhunting.