Pacific white-sided dolphins

Posted: 9 Jan. 2007
Revised: 29 Aug. 2011

The Fisheries Agency of Japan is going to add Pacific white-sided dolphins to the catch quota of the drive fishery from the hunting season in 2007. Elsa Nature Conservancy strongly objects to this and sent the following comments to the Fishery Agency.

Notes:
In spite of NGOs’ opposition, the Japan Fisheries Agency added the Pacific white-sided dolphins to the catch-quota of the drive hunt in 2007. Since then, this species has been hunted and captured alive. — 86 dolphins were hunted until the last season(from September 1, 2010 through February 28, 2011) . It seems that about 85 percent of them were captured alive and sent to aquariums.

Elsa Nature Conservancy
November 27, 2006

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Fisheries Agency, Resources Management Department, Far Seas Fisheries Division
Kasumigaseki 1-2-1, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8950
Fax: 03-3591-5824

Gentlepersons,

I hereby submit an opinion and information regarding “Draft for Partial Amendment to Separate Specification and Notification by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on Toothed Whales (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Notification No. 564 of 2001) in Accordance with the Provisions of the Proviso in Article 82.1 of the Ministerial Order on Permission for and Control of Designated Fisheries.”

Elsa Nature Conservancy (ENC) strongly objects to permitting the capture of Pacific white-sided dolphins, and hereby voices its opposition.

Reasons:

1. As a reason for adding the Pacific white-sided dolphin, the notification cites “a strong request from fishers in recent years to allow their capture.”

This alone appears to mean that fishers in general want to take Pacific white-sided dolphins as part of their work as fishers. But in fact the request for capturing Pacific white-sided dolphins comes from the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums, and the fishers are not fishers in general but a very small number of fishers who belong to the Isana Union in Taiji Town.

2. An internal communication sent by the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums (Senzo Uchida, Executive Secretary) on August 16, 2006 to the directors of zoos and aquariums which are members of the Cetacean Conference (see attachment) noted that Pacific white-sided dolphins are hard to obtain, and that not all aquarium directors who desire to obtain them have done so. The letter states, “Permission has not been granted to take Pacific white-sided dolphins at Taiji, and therefore drive fisheries for them are not allowed. But if the capture of Pacific white-sided dolphins becomes possible at Taiji, it will benefit aquariums with cetaceans, and fishers.” Attached to this was a questionnaire asking about the desire to obtain small cetaceans and titled Application for the Eighth Meeting of the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums (see attachment).

This is an attempt by aquariums that want Pacific white-sided dolphins to influence Taiji Town to capture this species in hunts (because cetaceans are air-breathing mammals, ENC refers to attempts to capture them as “hunts,” not as “fishing”), then share the profits with Taiji Town fishers, but such commercial trading in wild animals involves many problems.

The main problems are detailed below.

First, dolphins captured live for aquariums fetch far higher prices than do dolphins processed for meat, and dolphins thus purchased by aquariums are sold to China and other countries for prices about seven times the initial purchase price under the pretext of “scientific purposes.” This is none other than “dolphin flipping,” in which an educational facility (specifically, the Taiji Whale Museum), defined as an institution for social education by the Social Education Law Article 9 and the Museums Act Article 2, sacrifices wild animals in an attempt to make money in this way and thereby solve its financial problems. This is unacceptable, and there is even strong opposition to it from among local citizens and town council members. It is anticipated that if the capture of Pacific white-sided dolphins is permitted, it will further increase this “dolphin flipping” under the pretext of “scientific exchanges.”

Second, as seen from the aforesaid internal communication of the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums, the Pacific white-sided dolphins would be captured in hunts. But these dolphin drives involve many problems (see the enclosed leaflet: “Problems with Dolphin Drive Hunts as Seen by the Elsa Nature Conservancy”).

Third, as you are well aware, severe criticism is being leveled at dolphin drive hunts by nature, animal, and environmental protection organizations around the world, but in addition to that, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) seeks the discontinuance of these hunts as they violate its code of ethics, and it has warned WAZA member aquariums throughout the world not to purchase dolphins which have been captured in drive hunts (see enclosed copy of letter sent by WAZA president to member organizations). This means that criticism of dolphin hunts is increasing even from among aquariums which have dolphins.

Fourth, currently over 200 marine mammal experts and other specialists worldwide are voicing their objections to dolphin hunts from a scientific standpoint, and are collecting signatures to demand their discontinuance by issuing scientific statements (see enclosed copies of some of these documents obtained by ENC).

Fifth, the internal communication sent by the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums says, “There is no hope of a larger quota for bottlenose dolphins, which necessitates management of stocks,” and says it is necessary to develop “measures which enable a sustainable dolphin supply.” This means that the capture of bottlenose dolphins needs to be restrained in order to ensure a stable future supply. Although the notification states that Pacific white-sided dolphin “stocks are sufficient for sustainable use,” if the government allows the capture of Pacific white-sided dolphins, which are in high demand by aquariums, one can easily anticipate that the fate of bottlenose dolphins awaits Pacific white-sided dolphins as well.

Sixth is the current situation in Taiji Town, which wants to capture Pacific white-sided dolphins. As you are well aware, this year the hunting season was moved ahead one month, and dolphin hunting began in September. It is said this is becausee the Taiji Whale Museum wants to obtain dolphins before other aquarium facilities do.

Brushing aside opposition from Taiji Town citizens and environmental and animal protection organizations, in 2005 the Taiji Whale Museum sold eight bottlenose dolphins to a Chinese aquarium for seven times the purchase price: each dolphin was about 5.2 million yen, for a total of US$400,000, or about 41,600,000 yen. This transaction had little to do with “international scientific exchange.” Further, in May 2006 the Taiji Whale Museum sold dolphins to China for US$375,000 (about 43 million yen), which was about seven times the 6.4 million yen it had paid to the Taiji Fishing Cooperative for them. It is believed that the primary purpose of these sales is to stave off a financial crisis for the Taiji Whale Museum. Because one dolphin died before shipping, the actual number of dolphins sold this year was seven.

With plans for more reselling to aquariums, the Taiji Whale Museum has purchased a considerable number of dolphins from the Taiji Fishing Cooperative, which started its hunts a month early this season. Information obtained by ENC indicates that species and quantities are: four short-finned pilot whales, 10 false killer whales, 22 bottlenose dolphins (two of them juveniles), and three pantropical spotted dolphins. However, of these already one short-finned pilot whale, one false-killer whale, and two pantropical spotted dolphins have died while in possession of the Whale Museum, and the remaining three short-finned pilot whales in the pen have developed spinal disorders.

An examination of the site revealed that the purchased animals are kept in pens fenced into small sections or in small rusted tanks. The two bottlenose dolphin juveniles purchased by the museum are being force-fed in a small, simple pool set up behind the building, where visitors will not see it. In our judgment, this is certainly not what could be called “wild animal protection” or “scientific exchange,” and it should not be done by a facility that bills itself as an educational facility. This obsession with quick profits is not only uneducational, but also clear abuse of animals.

As one can see from the internal communication sent by the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums, the capture and use of Pacific white-sided dolphins is done primarily by Taiji Town, i.e., the Taiji Whale Museum, through the Taiji Fishing Cooperative. Under these circumstances, permitting the capture of Pacific white-sided dolphins in drive hunts would abet this shameful conduct, and promote the exploitation and abuse of wild animals.

For these reasons we oppose permitting the capture of Pacific striped dolphins, and request that you reconsider this matter.

Sincerely,

Eiji Fujiwara, President
cc: Media

Enclosures:
1) Copy of the internal communication sent by the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums on August 16, 2006 to the directors of zoos and aquariums which are members of the Cetacean Conference, and a copy of the questionnaire asking about the desire to obtain small cetaceans and titled Application for the Eighth Meeting of the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums
2) Copy of letter sent by WAZA president to member organizations
3) Copies of opinion statements on dolphin drive hunts from a scientific standpoint by marine mammal experts and others
4) Copy of ENC leaflet, “Problems with Dolphin Drive Hunts as Seen by the Elsa Nature Conservancy”

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