A Report of the Symposium

Introduction to the Toshima Dolphin Project(TDP) and
plans for ”Dolphin Sanctuary Tokyo”

Date: November 10, 2012

Waseda University

Waseda University

Event Title: To Co-exist Harmoniously with Dolphins
Place: Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan

Host: Prof. Hitoshi Watanabe, Department of Architecture, Waseda University
Sponsor: TDP, Elsa Nature Conservancy, Circlet, Orca Atelier
Cooperation: Toshima Diving Service, Iruka(Dolphin) Marine Club, Delphines, Kokopeli

This event was held in two sections.
Opening greetings from Prof. Hitoshi Watanabe, advisor to the TDP

Section 1 : Introduction to Toshima and the dolphins in the waters of Toshima

1) ”My 17 years with Dolphins and Toshima, and the Way Ahead” by Masato Sakano, chief advisor of the TDP

Showing his video, Mr. Sakano talked about his experience with dolphins in Hawaii, the Turks & Caocos, and Toshima. He also talked about the late Hiroshi Moriyama, a fisherman who persuaded the fishermen on Toshima not to harass a dolphin, Coco, when she moved into Toshima waters from Mikura Island. He showed very interesting and precious photos taken by a professional potographer, Kinuko Sakurai at Circlet, and told the participants the history of dolphins in the waters of Toshima Island, whose summary is as follows.

In 1995, a dolphin came to Toshima and became friendly with a fisherman, Mr. Moriyama, often swimming very close to him. (The sex of the dolphin was unknown, but people on Toshima thought that the dolphin was a male.)

In 1998 the dolphin gave birth to a calf, and for the first time, people in Toshima knew that the dolphin was a female. Protected by the people of Toshima, the mother and baby were named Coco and Pico from suggestions that came in from people nationwide, and the two were entered into the island’s records as official citizens. In the same year the Toshima Dolphin Project was set up to protect mother and baby dolphins in cooperation with the village mayor, the late Shinsaku Tomita, Masahiko Fujii, the owner of the island’s only dive shop at that time, Hiroshi Moriyama, the fisherman who had become friendly with the dolphin, and Circlet, a film company.

In 2007 Pico disappeared, and Coco stopped playing with Mr. Moriyama and others. Since 2009 the number of dolphins around Toshima Island has increased. Researchers on Mikura Island confirmed that the dolphins had migrated from there. For instance, Coco was originally identified as “Cassiopeia” in Mikura.

By 2011 more than ten dolphins had migrated to Toshima Island, and some of them had given birth. Coco, who had migrated to Udoneshima Island, returned to Toshima to be a leader of the pod. Currently Toshima Island has 16 resident Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins, three of which were born at Toshima.

Toshima Dolphin Project is now working to ensure that these dolphins can enjoy life safely in the waters around Toshima.

2) “Individual Identification of the sixteen dolphins of Toshima” by Haruhiko Azuma, a marine biology researcher and high school teacher at Kokubun high school in Chiba

Mr. Azuma has recorded the dolphins in the waters of Toshima since 2010 with a special camera that is attached to a video, and identified all the dolphins there. He told the participants how to identify dolphins, using illustrations and photos.

He listed each dolphin’s identified number, nickname, and its distinctive features. (You can find the list on the website of the Toshima Dolphin Project.) Nine of them have two identification numbers, for they were originally identified and recorded in Mikura Island, and re-identified in Toshima.

Mr.Haruhiko Azuma

Mr.Haruhiko Azuma

Section 2: Panel Discussion and a talk session with the participants
“To consider better way to interact with dolphins,” sharing information on Toshima Dolphins”

Prof. Hitoshi Watanabe, TDP advisor, Orca Atelier, Waseda University
Sakae Hemmi, secretary general of Elsa Nature Conservancy,
Mariko Miki, head of Delphines, dolphin-swim program operator
Masato Sakano, chief advisor for TDP, a film producer

The session began with a short discussion amongst the panelists.
Prof. Watanabe opened the discussion, showing slides and explaining how the marine environment links with the forest environment. He suggested that Toshima could be regarded as a miniature model of Gaia. He noted that data on dolphins around Japan is lacking compared with that of orcas, and suggested that an “Education Center” should be set up on Toshima, where research could be conducted and also could educate visitors concerning not only dolphins but also island’s traditional culture, nature, religion and customs.

Ms. Sakae Hemmi told the participants that the goal of Toshima Dolphin Project (TDP) is to protect dolphins in the waters around Toshima IsIand so that humans can co-exist harmoniously with them. This goal is not possible to realize without the cooperation of other islands in the Izu archipelago waters and tourists who visit there, for wild dolphins live in the ocean and move freely. In this sense, she insisted that the dolphins around Toshima waters shouldn’t be considered “Toshima’s dolphins,” but residents of the Izu waters. The plan of “Dolphin Sanctuary Tokyo” comes from this recognition.

She presented examples of extensive migration by bottlenose dolphins (T.aduncus=Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin) around the southwest of Japan. She reported that some dolphins travel from Kyushu to the Japan Sea coast as far as to Kyoto or Notojima, Ishikawa prefecture, while dolphins around Mikura and Toshima Islands are known to migrate far off the coast of Chiba prefecture to Futo, Izu Peninsula, and even farther to the coast of Kushimoto, near Taiji, on Kii Peninsula. Some dolphins were observed to approach divers and stay away from their home waters for some time. Both Futo and Taiji are known as the places where the drive hunt of dolphins takes place.

Ms. Hemmi reported that the Japan Fisheries Agency allows common bottlenose dolphins (T. truncatus) to be caught and killed, but that Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (T. aduncus) are not included in the catch-quotas. However, she explained that distinguishing between these two species during the hunt is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Once dolphins are driven into an inlet (oikomi method) for live capture or slaughter, they will be severely damaged, even if they are fortunate enough to escape being killed or captured.

Considering extensive migration of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and the drive hunt of dolphins carried out by the Japanese government, Ms. Hemmi concluded that the TDP will have to consider how to protect dolphins with a broader outlook, regarding them not only as “dolphins in the Izu waters,” but also as “Japan’s dolphins.”

Ms. Mariko Miki, a dolphin-swim program operator, told the participants about her extensive experience with wild dolphins and how she started her carrier as a dolphin swim guide, after her first encounter with wild dolphins in 1992. She knows the situation at both Mikura Island and Miyake Island very well. She told us that harassment to dolphins during the swim-with-the-dolphins or dolphin watching often arises from the skipper’s wish to satisfy tourists’ desire to meet or swim with dolphins, and that the quality of such businesses largely depends on both skipper’s and tourists’ recognition/understanding of dolphins in the wild. Dolphins are not special animals for the skippers of the tourists boats, for dolphins have been around the island for generations. In short, dolphins are too common for most of the skippers to have much concern. Therefore, it is up to the tourists and tour operators to suggest to the skippers the best conduct that would minimize any disturbance or pressure on dolphins.

According to Ms. Miki, the number of wild dolphins around Mikura Island had not changed much since the start of research to identify individual dolphins. However, she reported, the population has been decreasing at the rate of 20 to 30 animals a year in these several years. It is not clear whether the decrease is caused by the increase of tourists and their pressure on dolphins.

panelists (Mr.Sakano, Ms. Miki, Ms. Hemmi, Prof. Watanabe)

panelists (Mr.Sakano, Ms. Miki, Ms. Hemmi, Prof. Watanabe)

After the panels’ discussion, Mr. Sakano talked about dolphin watching and swim-with-the-dolphins programs in Toshima. According to him, when Coco was the only one dolphin around Toshima, 200~300 tourists visited there per month, but the numbers have increased to more than 2,000 a month and about 10,000 a year since the pod of dolphins headed by Coco came reside in the waters around Toshima Island. The number of dolphin watching boats will increase next year. Then, it will become more important for the skippers to abide by regulations, and to consider how many hours a day dolphins should be given a rest, he concluded.

During the discussion time, a few of the participants talked about their experience of dolphin watching and swimming with the dolphins in Toshima. One of themes of the discussion was the regulations of dolphin watching and swimming with dolphins in Japan and abroad. Not only in UK but also some countries in South America have strict rules and they are against cetacean captivity, and even the swim-with-the-dolphins in the wild is not always regarded as the ideal interaction between humans and dolphins, because there is a possibility of harassing dolphins. The questions centered on how dolphins could evade harassment from humans. This topic seemed to have impressed many of the participants.

One of the participants asked how to educate children about dolphins, and this led to a discussion of the nature and ocean conservation. A suggestion was made that children should be taught that dolphins’ home should be in the ocean, not in the tank. 

Questionnaire results:
We asked participants to fill out a questionnaire. The response rate was 68%. The participants ages ranged between the twenties through the sixties. Sixty five percent of them were in their thirties and forties.

1) Participants learned about the symposium mainly from Facebook (47%) and friends(29%).

2) Twenty nine percent of the participants had been to Toshima Island.

3 & 4) Most of them enjoyed swim-with-the-dolphins in Toshima, and 40% of them enjoyed dolphin watching. Participants who hadn’t been to Toshima answered that they would like to swim with the dolphins when they visit Toshima.

5)The participants answered that they were interested in

   (1) dolphin watching & swimming with dolphins……….64%
   (2) the ecology of dolphins……………………………….64%
   (3) aquariums/captivity industry…………………………15%
   (4) protection of dolphins…………………………………64%

6)Whether the “Dolphin Sanctuary Tokyo” is needed or not:

   (1) It is needed……………………………………………..67%
   (2) It is not needed………………………………………….6%
   (3) Cannot decide it……………………………………….11%

7) ”What do you think is important to protect dolphins?”

Responses included the following comments:

8)“Do you want to attend such a meeting/symposium held by the Toshima DP again?”

   (1) Yes, by all means……………………62%
   (2) Yes……………………………………29%      (1) €+ (2) =91%
   (3) No………………………………………0

9)“What theme/issue do you want us to take up next time?

Answers included the following:

Please visit the website of the Toshima Dolphin Project
to get detailed information.
You can also find photos and a report of the symposium held on November 10, 2011.