An Open Letter to Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquarium (WAZA)

27th March, 2015

Dear Dr. Gerald Dick,

Thank you for your reply to our mail of 11th December, 2014.

To our regret, your reply didn’t include any answer to our inquiries. We, the following Japanese organizations, send you an inquiry letter again, and ask you to share with us your thoughts and concrete plans to solve the issues concerning the drive hunt of dolphins.

Our inquiries and requests

1) Can you clarify your acceptance of a new regulation of the Taiji drive hunt of bottlenose dolphins in September? If so, can you share your reasoning with us? If not, can you share with us your/WAZA’s next step/concrete plans to avoid the abusive capture of bottlenose dolphins in September?

Though all species other than the bottlenose dolphins are captured live from a large pod or killed in the same way as before, a new regulation to the bottlenose dolphin was introduced in the meeting of WAZA and JAZA on August 10, 2014. According to the new regulation, only when JAZA member aquaria participate in buying bottlenose dolphins, fishermen should drive a small pod into the cove, and dolphins should be taken from this smaller pod. Any remaining dolphins are supposed to be returned to the ocean, and not killed for meat. When JAZA member aquaria don’t join in buying, the bottlenose dolphins are captured live from a large pod and any remaining dolphins are killed for meat in the same way as before.
Whether to kill or release them is solely entrusted to the Taiji Fishing Cooperative.

In September, the first month of the hunting season, the new regulation allows only JAZA member aquaria and three organizations in Taiji to buy bottlenose dolphins, and unsold remaining dolphins should be released to the ocean. However, there is no regulation about the size of a pod in September. Bottlenose dolphins can be captured live from a large pod in the same way as before. (Please see the attached/enclosed “The drive hunt in Taiji 2014~2015.”) At the joint-meeting in 2014 WAZA and JAZA admitted that live capture from a large pod would give much stress on dolphins and also hurt them, and replied to us that the way to avoid such an abusive live capture was to take dolphins from a small pod. (Note that, based in available science, we don’t think that even a small pod can stop captures from being harmful or abusive.) Capturing dolphins in an inhumane or abusive way unmistakably violates WAZA Code of Ethics.
Do you really accept the new regulation of the Taiji drive hunt of bottlenose dolphins in September? Would you please explain why you agreed to allow a big group? Answers to our No. 1 inquiries above are greatly appreciated.

2) What are your/WAZA’s concrete plans to stop the increasing trade of dolphins?

Because of an agreement between JAZA and WAZA, three organizations in Taiji, that is, the Taiji Town Development Public Corporation, Dolphin Base, and Dolphin Resort are allowed to take dolphins from a large pod after JAZA member aquaria took dolphins in September. Also because of your agreement Taiji Whale Museum, which has a long history of trading wild dolphins, is admitted to have a priority to take dolphins from a large pod in September, for it is a JAZA member aquarium. By admitting the live capture formally, you/WAZA have guaranteed the live capture from the drive hunt, and accepted a high possibility of abuse to dolphins. As a result, WAZA supports the drive hunt of dolphins itself. We believe that you have instead made the situation worse than before. It’s our great surprise that you allowed and guaranteed the live capture not only to the three organizations but also to all the Japanese aquaria including JAZA members. Please understand and be aware that WAZA’s decision has more influence on this issue concerning the drive hunt than you might think.

In our previous mail we sent you precise information on the Taiji Town Development Public Corporation and Dolphin Base. You told us that WAZA and JAZA were concerned about the export of dolphins to China and wanted to stop it. However, it is the organizations you admitted to buy dolphins that have sold and will continue to sell dolphins to China. By giving a priority to capture/buy dolphins to these organizations, you encouraged them to sell/export dolphins. Urgent regulations are needed. If you overlook this situation, the dolphin trade will increasingly continue. We ask you to start to work with JAZA to change the situation in Taiji to decrease the trade of dolphins before the next hunting season starts.

3) Are not all dolphin species included under WAZA Code of Ethics?

The drive hunt of dolphins except for bottlenose dolphins has been continuing in the same way as the previous season. After the live capture, unsold dolphins were killed for meat. The way of hunting you once considered to be cruel, and elicited WAZA’s strong statements of opposition has been continuing in violation against WAZA Code of Ethics.
Can you clarify why all dolphin species are not included under WAZA Code of Ethics? Why does WAZA’s current policy not include other species that are hunted and captured? Can you share WAZA’s concrete plans to consider all the dolphins due to be hunted within your policy decisions?

4) WAZA should urgently start to work to avoid “Taiji” becoming a second “Futo.”

At the joint-meeting you mentioned about a concern that “in 20 years dolphins will be unavailable for aquaria to bring in, if the drive hunt in Taiji continues as it is.” Investigating whaling and the drive hunt of dolphins in Japan, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) warns that the situation is more urgent than you think. As you already know, the number of the live capture has been increasing in Taiji.
As we already mentioned above, by agreeing to JAZA’s terms, WAZA has allowed both JAZA member aquaria and non-JAZA member aquaria including the Taiji Town Development Public Corporation, Dolphin Base and Dolphin Resort, to buy dolphins from the drive hunt. Consequently, WAZA has encouraged and promoted the live capture of dolphins. We are worried that it will lead to decrease or extinction of dolphins in the waters off and around Taiji, just like the case in Futo, another place that allowed the drive hunt of dolphins, and which suspended the drives since 2005. Futo is still allotted a catch-quota for striped dolphins, but no striped dolphins have been captured for more than 20 years since 1993. One of the surmised reasons for the local extinction of striped dolphins near Futo is pressure from the drive hunt.
WAZA’s concern is appropriate, but WAZA should urgently start to work to avoid “Taiji” becoming a second “Futo.” Can you share any concrete measures that you have taken to deal with the situation in Taiji?

5) Does WAZA have any plans to establish an official monitoring system with the penal code before the next hunting season starts?

According to Mr. Arai, the monitoring organization of the live capture in Taiji wasn’t decided at the WAZA-JAZA meeting, so monitoring or oversight of the live capture operations will be carried out by the Taiji Whale Museum for a while.
As you might know, to implement an adequate and reliable monitoring system, it should be done under the penal code by the third party that doesn’t have any interest in the drive hunt. An official monitoring system is needed. The Taiji Whale Museum is not suitable as a monitor.
According to Mr. Arai, he thinks that JAZA should at least monitor the live capture carried out by JAZA member aquaria. It is one of the pending issues that JAZA should solve somehow, but at the same time WAZA, which accepts and keeps JAZA as its member, has the same responsibility to solve this problem. We ask you to cooperate with JAZA and establish an official monitoring system with the penal code before the next hunting season starts.

6) Would you please make it clear whether the drive hunt itself violates the WAZA Code of Ethics?

You wrote us that “Our statement after the meeting in Tokyo is still valid and the drive fisheries have to come to an end.” We understand that WAZA opposes the drive hunt and tries to stop it, considering that the drive hunt is cruel and violates WAZA Code of Ethics. Is our understanding correct? We’d like to confirm this most important point.

7) Would you please make it clear whether the live capture of dolphins from the drive hunt violates WAZA Code of Ethics? If not, please provide us with a detailed explanation addressing our points below, so that we can better understand WAZA’s position?

At the joint-meeting on August 10, you replied to our questions that “WAZA doesn’t know whether the live capture of dolphins in Taiji violates WAZA Code of Ethics or not, for WAZA and JAZA didn’t get to a conclusion about this point” in the WAZA and JAZA meeting held in the morning ahead of the joint-meeting. WAZA left Japan without ascertaining whether the drive hunt in Taiji violates WAZA Code of Ethics. Over seven months have passed since then. It’s high time that WAZA decide this fundamental important thing.

WAZA agreed with JAZA to allow fishermen to drive dolphins into the cove in the same way, capture them alive, and kill them in the same way as before. The method has therefore NOT changed. The only change that has been agreed is that JAZA member aquaria take bottlenose dolphins from a small pod after October, not in September, and only when JAZA member aquaria join in buying dolphins, unsold bottlenose dolphins are released to the ocean. (See the attached/enclosed “The drive hunt in Taiji 2014~2015.”) As to all other species other than the bottlenose dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins JAZA member aquaria don’t join in buying, nothing was changed and all of them are captured and killed in the same cruel way as before.

8) Why do you think that it’s possible to separate the drive hunt into two—one “to drive and kill for meat,” and the other “to capture live”?

The two are too closely related to consider the one to be unblemished.
Considering the close relation between “the live capture” and “abusive kill,” do you still think that “to capture dolphins live” from the drive hunt is unblemished and abides by WAZA Code of Ethics?

WAZA is trying to separate the drive hunt into two, one “to drive and kill for meat,”
and the other “to capture live,” though the way to drive dolphins into the cove, its
hunting method and fishermen themselves are the same. If WAZA considers that “to drive and kill” violates WAZA Code of Ethics, does not “the live capture” from the drive hunt that also violate the WAZA Code of Ethics? The live capture is based on the cruel drives that WAZA opposes and tries to end. Considering the close relation between “the live capture” and “abusive kill,” do you still think that “to capture dolphins live” from the drive hunt is unblemished and abides by WAZA Code of Ethics?

As you already knew, our views about the drive hunt and animal welfare are different from yours. However, what WAZA and we are aiming for is the same: to end the drive hunt of dolphins in Japan is our common purpose. We respectfully remind you that you invited us to work together for this common purpose.

Would you please answer the above inquiries and let us know your concrete plans or idea to achieve our goal? We Japanese organizations will gladly cooperate with you to end the drive hunt as quickly as possible.

With best wishes,

Hiroyuki Sakamoto, Animal Network Japan
Masato Sakano, Oceans, Dolphins, Humans
Sachiko Azuma, PEACE (Put an End to Animal Cruelty and Exploitation)
Sakae Hemmi, Elsa Nature Conservancy
Yukari Sugisaka, Help Animals

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