An Open letter to Dr. Gerald Dick, executive director of WAZA

The Japanese five organizations sent an open letter to Dr. Gerald Dick on 27th March, 2015, offering their cooperation with WAZA and seeking for WAZA’s cooperation as well to work to improve the present situation in Taiji and to stop the drive hunt of dolphins in Japan.

In December, 2014, the Japanese five organizations sent a letter of inquiries and requests with sincere thanks for Dr. Gerald Dick’s efforts to arrange the joint-meeting to stop the drive hunt of dolphins. However, his reply mail of December 19, 2014 did not include answers to many of their inquiries and requests.

In the March 2015 open letter, the five Japanese organizations are again offering their cooperation with WAZA to end the drive hunt of dolphins, and are respectfully seeking for WAZA’s answers to their inquiries and requests.

As to the process of the communication between WAZA, JAZA and the Japanese organizations, please read the following.

A Brief Report of the WAZA, JAZA and NGOs’ meetings in 2014

The First Meeting at Gland, Switzerland

About a year ago, on March 28, 2014, a meeting was held at the WAZA’s headquarters at Gland, Switzerland, while a peaceful demonstration continued in front of the office
of WAZA. WAZA shut out the media persons and journalists and the meeting was held behind closed doors. The NGO participants were limited to four persons, that is, Daniel Jolt, a Swiss citizen and organizer of the meeting, Richard O’ Barry, a former director of the Dolphin Project of the Earth Island Institute, and at present, the president of “Ric O’ Barry’s Dolphin Project,” Sigrid Luber, the president of OceanCare in Switzerland and Sakae Hemmi at Elsa Nature Conservancy, Japan. The subject of the meeting was the drive hunt of dolphins in Taiji, Japan and WAZA’s Code of Ethics. At this meeting Dr. Gerald Dick, WAZA’s executive director, agreed to arrange a meeting in Japan with the Japanese NGOs and the head of JAZA to discuss the same subject.


A peaceful demonstration at Gland, Switzerland

The Joint-meeting of WAZA, JAZA and Japanese five NGOs

with waza

Before the joint-meeting: Dr. Gerald Dick (left) and Mr. Lee C. Ehmke,
president of WAZA, at the center

On August 10, 2014, the meeting was held at the Swiss Embassy in Tokyo. The subject of the meeting was decided beforehand: to discuss the ways to have JAZA, a member of WAZA, follow WAZA’s Code of Ethics, that is, to make JAZA stop its member aquaria from obtaining dolphins through the drive hunt and trading them.

Surprisingly, when the meeting started, the Japanese NGOs were told that “live capture of dolphins from the drive hunt does not violate WAZA’s Code of Ethics.” Mr. Kazutoshi Arai, the president of JAZA, insisted that the live capture of dolphins carried out in Taiji did not violate WAZA’S Code of Ethics. Dr. Gerald Dick (Lee C. Ehmke, president of WAZA was seated with him) stated to the Japanese NGOs’ questions that “WAZA doesn’t know whether the live capture of dolphins in Taiji violates WAZA’s Code of Ethics or not, for WAZA and JAZA did not get to a conclusion about this point” in the WAZA & JAZA meeting held in the morning ahead of the joint meeting. WAZA left Japan without ascertaining whether the drive hunt in Taiji violates its Code of Ethics.

All members of the Japanese NGOs felt that WAZA had changed its position from stopping the drive hunt of dolphins to permitting it. The method to capture live dolphins was the main issue for WAZA. It was no problem for WAZA to capture dolphins alive through the drive hunt, as long as it was carried out with “minimum” stress, and to kill dolphins was merely a “Not Happy” thing. By officially accepting an unsatisfactory vague regulation proposed by JAZA, WAZA unwittingly supports the Taiji drive hunt and makes it even more difficult to stop it.

The Japanese NGOs were told that Mr. Arai had shown photos to Dr. Dick and WAZA staff, explaining that the present live capture of dolphins in Taiji imposes minimum stress on dolphins and there is no problem concerning animal welfare. Mr. Arai refused to show the NGOs the photos, which were provided by Taiji Whale Museum. Mr. Arai himself “visited Taiji to capture dolphins ten years ago, but hasn’t observed the drive hunt since then.” In response to Mr. Arai, and to our surprise, Dr. Dick stated that “WAZA’s statements which condemned the drive hunt in 2004, 2006, and 2009 are too old. WAZA should think about a new way that fits animal welfare, because the old method of the drive hunt has changed.” All the attendants from WAZA including Dr. Dick have never observed the drive hunt of dolphins in Taiji, and accepted JAZA’s position that “the drive hunt in Taiji doesn’t violate WAZA’s Code of Ethics” without confirming it for themselves.

Though disappointed by WAZA’s weak position, all the Japanese NGOs admitted that WAZA made efforts to change the present situation by proposing a two-year moratorium, which was not accepted by JAZA. A good outcome of this meeting was that the Japanese NGOs were given an opportunity to communicate with JAZA for the first time, and Mr. Arai accepted their request to talk with him again. WAZA and JAZA agreed to invite the same five Japanese organizations to sit at the table to discuss this matter (drive hunt and live capture) in the future. The results of the joint-meeting were not satisfactory for them, but they think that they could open a door for better future.

In the end of the meeting the Japanese NGOs confirmed that all the participants of WAZA and JAZA have the same common recognition with them that the dolphin drive hunt in Taiji has serious problems to be solved, even though JAZA insisted that the present live capture had no animal welfare problems and WAZA took the position of accepting JAZA’s assessment.

The JAZA-NGO meeting at the Kamogawa Sea World on August 28, 2014

with JAZA

The JAZA-NGO meeting at the Kamogawa Sea World

A new regulation was introduced
At this meeting and through Mr. Arai’s reply to the NGOs’ inquiry letter after the meeting, all the NGOs understood the details of the new regulation of the dolphin drive hunt in Taiji that WAZA and JAZA decided in the morning ahead of the joint-meeting. (See The drive hunt in Taiji 2014~2015 )

According to JAZA, this regulation was proposed by the Taiji Fishing Cooperative in July, 2014. Taiji Fishing Cooperative told JAZA that the regulation should be applied only to bottlenose dolphins, whose meat is not very good for food. JAZA accepted the proposal without raising any objection and WAZA also agreed to the decision concerning the bottlenose dolphins. WAZA hasn’t agreed to capture other species such as pilot whales in the same way as before, Mr. Arai said.

Futo in the Shizuoka prefecture:


Many dolphins are injured, or drown, in panic during the live capture.

The drive hunt of dolphins is permitted two places, Futo and Taiji. If Futo in the Shizuoka prefecture carries out the drive hunt this season, the new regulation will be applied, Mr. Arai said.
Futo hasn’t carried out the drive hunt for ten years because of a lack of dolphins in the area, but JAZA/aquaria has/have continued to ask Futo to carry out the drives to supply them with dolphins. Historically, Futo captured dolphins for aquaria, as being in the middle of Honshu (the main island of Japan) it is in a more convenient location for many aquaria than Taiji.


Futo2_cAquarium employees and fishermen work together to capture dolphins. In case of Futo, dolphins driven into Futo Port were further driven to the pier-wall in a small pod and encircled with nets and boats. On the pier, aquarium personnel selected dolphins they wanted to take alive out of this encircled small pod.

The live capture of dolphins:
According to JAZA, drive hunting is the best way to supply dolphins into aquaria. JAZA asks Taiji fishermen to treat dolphins carefully and gently.
JAZA doesn’t think that to capture dolphins alive is cruel, if fishermen/aquaria members take dolphins carefully from a small pod. To the NGOs’ inquiry that the way to drive dolphins into the bay itself is cruel, Mr. Arai replied that JAZA had no intention to change the way to drive them into the bay/cove. And WAZA did not mention that the present way to drive dolphins into the cove should be changed.


The rusty, old, and narrow tank at the Taiji Whale Museum

Monitoring the live capture:
According to Mr. Arai, it is impossible for JAZA to manage all the live captures from the drive hunt, but JAZA should at least monitor the live captures by JAZA member aquaria. Until JAZA comes up with a monitoring plan, the Taiji Whale Museum will monitor the live capture.


Sea pens at the Taiji Whale Museum


The Taiji Fishing Port – Dolphns that are sold to domestic and foreign aquaria are held in the sea pens.

Mother dolphin and its baby:
JAZA asked Taiji fishermen not to take mother and its baby (the young). The Fisheries Agency also guides Taiji fishermen not to take mother and its baby.
Taiji fishermen themselves are making efforts not to take mother and its baby, Mr. Arai said.
Mr. Arai believes that it is the effect/outcome of NGOs’ activities.

What WAZA requested at the WAZA-JAZA meeting on August 10:
1) WAZA requested to stop the drive hunt of dolphins.
2) WAZA requested a moratorium for 2 years.
3) WAZA didn’t agree that the species other than bottlenose dolphins would be captured alive in the same way as before. (However, WAZA left Japan leaving this issue unsolved.)

JAZA refused WAZA’s requests of 1) & 2). WAZA didn’t insist its requests and conceded.
The last one, 3), remains as a problem to be solved. This is related with the Fisheries Agency and Taiji Fishing Cooperative, and causes an economic problem, but JAZA wants to solve it somehow, Mr. Arai said.

According to Mr. Arai, WAZA and JAZA discussed the export of dolphins to China, and WAZA insisted that JAZA should do something to communicate with non-JAZA member aquaria. JAZA has not communicated with non-member aquaria and has no right to force them to do anything. However, Mr. Arai conceded that he should consider this issue.

Breeding dolphins
About 20~30 bottlenose dolphins are annually bought from the drive hunt by JAZA member aquaria. Mr. Arai thinks that the reason to have to buy dolphins from the drive hunt is that breeding dolphins is not successful in Japan. Many aquaria in Japan don’t have a breeding pool, which is very important to breed dolphins. In the U.S., 70 percent of dolphins are bred in aquaria, but less than 20 percent in Japan. WAZA puts a strong pressure on JAZA to make a success in breeding dolphins in aquaria.
There has been an easy way to supply aquaria with dolphins in Japan such as the drive hunt, and Mr. Arai thinks that it might be one of the reasons that the breeding didn’t progress.

breeding pool

A breeding pool at the Kamogawa Sea World

JAZA works as a window to handle complaints from the five organizations
Mr. Aria didn’t agree to meet the five organizations again to discuss the matter, but agreed to be a window to accept information/complaints when the live capture is carried out in an abusive way. Mr. Arai promised that he would contact concerned places to stop the cruel capture, if the five organizations send him information.