The full text of the petition to the WAZA

November 30, 2013

Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director
Executive Office of the World Association of Zoos and Aquarium ( WAZA )
IUCN Conservation Centre
Rue Mauverney 28
CH-1196 Gland

Dear Dr. Gerald Dick,

Enclosed, please find a petition to WAZA from three Japanese organizations supporting the ethical treatment of animals in favor of ending the procurement of aquarium dolphins from the Taiji dolphin drive hunts. In agreement with WAZA’s October 2005 statement, we also find the sale and trade of aquarium dolphin through these drive hunts to be “inherently cruel” and “non-acceptable”. We have also submitted a similar petition to JAZA, requesting them to stop its members from housing and displaying dolphins obtained by drive hunts.

Our three organizations represent a rising tide of public opinion in Japan. ELSA Nature Conservancy ( is the longest standing of the groups, having been established in 1976, and we have been active against the dolphin hunts for several decades, particularly through our educational publications and initiatives. Several of our reports are included as appendices supporting our petition. Help Animals and PEACE are more recently established groups that are evidence of growing support amongst Japanese citizens for the need to treat all animals in an ethical and humane manner.

The enclosed petition asks that WAZA exert its authority to ensure that JAZA-affiliated aquariums stop acquiring dolphins from the drive hunt. As we explain in our petition with evidence provided in studies conducted by ELSA and other organizations (attached as appendices to the petition) the acquisition of dolphins through the drive hunts is not only inherently cruel, but potentially threatens the natural population of dolphins in the region, with no regard for sustainability or conservation. Clearly, the continued acquisition of dolphins from the drive hunt directly conflicts with WAZA’s published Code of Ethics as well as your Vision and Mission to “promote the interests of wildlife conservation, biodiversity and animal welfare” and should disqualify facilities participating in the practice from affiliation with WAZA.

We believe that this is an important moment for WAZA as organizations such as yours that oversee zoos and aquariums have recently come under increased public scrutiny in the wake of widely viewed films such as “Blackfish”. As the public becomes more aware of the possibility of unethical and other problematic practices that may endanger aquarium animals and employees, and even animals in their natural habitats, the burden is on WAZA and other leading global organizations to ensure best practices that support your Vision and Mission for species conservation and the ethical treatment of animals.

Thank you for your attention to the enclosed materials.


Sakae Hemmi, ELSA Nature Conservancy

Petition to WAZA
Appendix 1 The Dolphin Drive Hunt: Appropriate Management ? — Observation from the Emergency of the Hunting season of the Dolphin Drive Hunt in Taiji, Elsa Nature Conservancy, 2011
Appendix 2 Census of dolphin catch and catch-quotas by Elsa Nature Conservancy:
Changes of the Catch-quotas of Small Cetaceans (1993-2013/2014)
Numbers of Small Cetaceans Captured and Killed along the Coast of Japan (2000-2011)
Appendix 3 Towards Extinction–The continued unsustainable hunting of small cetaceans in Japan, Environmental Investigation Agency, 2013
Appendix 4 Driven by Demand–Dolphin drive hunt in Japan and the involvement of the aquarium industry, WDCS, 2006

November 30, 2013

Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director
Executive Office of the World Association of Zoos and Aquarium ( WAZA )
IUCN Conservation Centre
Rue Mauverney 28
CH-1196 Gland

Dear Dr. Gerald Dick,

We represent three environmental and animal protection groups in Japan, and we have long opposed the drive hunt of dolphins that is conducted here. Through our petition, which follows below, we request your strong and immediate action in ending the procurement and display of dolphins captured in the drive hunts.


We are calling on the World Association of Zoos and Aquarium ( WAZA ) to take strong action to make the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums ( JAZA ) comply with the WAZA Code of Ethics and require that all JAZA-affiliated facilities immediately stop obtaining dolphins through the drive hunt in Japan. Specifically, we ask that you formally censure JAZA for continuing to allow the procurement of dolphins through drive hunts and ultimately to refuse continued association with WAZA if compliance is not forthcoming in a timely manner.


Dolphin drive hunting is against the Code of Ethics of WAZA:
At the WAZA Administrative Session of the 59 Annual Meeting held at Taipei, Taiwan, on November 4, 2004, WAZA voted unanimously to take a position against dolphin drive hunts in Japan. In October 2005, WAZA issued a statement to its members urging them to “ensure that they do not accept animals obtained by the use of methods which are inherently cruel,” and noting that: “the catching of dolphins by the use of a method known as ‘drive fishing’ is considered an example of such a non-acceptable capture method.”

In addition to being inherently cruel, the Taiji dolphin drive hunts, which are conducted without any regard to sustainability and its impact on local dolphin populations, directly conflict with the ideal of conservation upheld by WAZA through its Vision and Mission Statement. Studies by our group, ELSA, have shown that quotas for the dolphin catch are based primarily on the needs of fishermen, without any scientific studies to support the sustainability of the hunts (appendix 1). Similar dolphin hunts in other regions of Japan (Iki and Futo) have historically depleted dolphins from those waters, and a similar eventuality would not be surprising in Taiji. To continue to allow JAZA and WAZA affiliated facilities to procure dolphins from the Taiji dolphin hunts contradicts WAZA’s Mission, Vision and Code of Ethics to “promote the interests of wildlife conservation, biodiversity and animal welfare” including that of dolphins.

WAZA’s statement regarding dolphin drive hunting has not been realized:
On October 6, 2007, two Taiji town councilmen, Junichiro Yamashita and Hisato Ryono, requested help from WAZA to stop the procurement of dolphins by aquariums through dolphin drive hunting in a formal letter stating, ”we sincerely hope that you ( WAZA ) will effectively regulate the dolphin trade and take strict measures against the trade of dolphins from Taiji, which is the center of the drive hunt and dolphin exports.” Although WAZA had already taken a clear and public stance against dolphin drive hunts in Taiji, WAZA did not answer the councilmen’s request, and the sale of dolphins to aquariums from the dolphin drive hunts in Taiji have only increased.

In 2010, according to an agreement made among WAZA, JAZA, and the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium, WAZA established a transitional approach in which for the month of September (the first month of the hunting season in Taiji) bottlenose dolphins would be captured live, but not killed for human consumption. Unfortunately, this measure did not limit live captures of dolphins in the subsequent months of the drive hunting season; thus, most dolphins caught at Taiji continue to be procured through methods that WAZA has clearly stated are unethical and “non-acceptable”.

The status-quo in Japan:
Every year dolphins continue to be captured alive in drive hunts in Japan and sent to aquariums domestically and even overseas, after long-distance transportation. The number of live-caught dolphins has been steadily increasing. In 2008, the number of live-caught dolphins was 93, three times higher than in 2005, and by 2010, it had risen to 213, five times the number caught in 2005. The number of dolphins exported from Japan has shown a corresponding rise (79 dolphins in 2010) indicating that Taiji has unmistakably become a major international supply source for dolphins, despite continuing to use capture methods that WAZA has deemed unethical and “non-acceptable”.

Furthermore, even as the number of live-caught dolphins has increased, the overall catch of dolphins in Japan has dropped from 16,093 (in 2005) to 6,364 (in 2010) despite little change in quotas for the main targeted species (appendix 2). These data support a report from the Environmental Investigation Agency ( EIA ) warning that “there is significant evidence that a number of the exploited [dolphin] populations are depleted” through dolphin hunting in the waters around Japan (appendix 3). Decreasing catch numbers makes the hunt for dolphin meat less profitable and might be expected to lead to a decline or even end of dolphin hunting. Yet studies by our group have shown that the live dolphin trade is so lucrative that it has become an economic driver for the dolphin drive hunt (appendix 4). To allow the continued procurement of dolphins through the drive hunts promotes an activity that threatens local populations, and is in direct conflict with WAZA’s Code of Ethics, Vision and Mission.

In recent years, a voice of protest against the unethical treatment of dolphins and unsustainable ocean management practices has been increasing in Japan. In July, 2013, protests in three cities in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, and Hyogo prefecture) were held to support an international campaign against the captivity of dolphins and other marine mammals was carried out. This Japanese voice of protest includes our own and others’ who support an end to the live capture of dolphins in drive hunts in Taiji.

Inaction and the status quo throw the authority of WAZA into question:
Nine years have passed since WAZA took an official position to oppose the drive hunt of dolphins, and three years since the transitional agreement, neither of which has had any demonstrable impact on the unethical capture and trade of dolphins in Japan and internationally. We now urge WAZA to take renewed action and to demonstrate to the zoo and aquarium going public your authority and effectiveness in ensuring that WAZA- and JAZA-affiliated facilities act in accordance with your Vision, Mission and Code of Ethics to support the conservation and ethical treatment of dolphins by ending their procurement from the Taiji drive hunts.

Our request:
We sincerely request you to take an urgent action to pressure JAZA to stop its member aquariums from buying and trading dolphins obtained from the drive hunt. Continued acquisition of dolphins from the Taiji dolphin hunt by JAZA-affiliated facilities must result in disqualification of JAZA from affiliation with WAZA. We entreat WAZA to stand with us in upholding ethical practices in the treatment of non-human animals in Japan.

Yours sincerely,

Sakae Hemmi, Elsa Nature Conservancy
Yukari Sugisaka, Help Animas
Sachiko Azuma, Put an End to Animal Cruelty and Exploitation ( PEACE )