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Majestic fin whales

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Humpback whale underwater

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Long-finned pilot whale

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First slaughter of the season in Taiji, Japan

Following the capture of approximately 30 bottlenose dolphins for use captivity shows and aquaria, the first slaughter of the new Japanese hunt season has taken place with 18 pilot whales being butchered for their meat on September 12th. 

Dolphin drive hunts, also known as the ‘drive fisheries,’ occur annually from September through April of each year in the coastal town of Taiji. Drive hunts are also allowed in the town of Futo, but they have not taken place since 2004. During these hunts, dolphins are encircled by motorboats out at sea and are then chased and corralled into shallow waters where they are trapped with nets, dragged beneath tarpaulins, and then killed or hauled off live to be sold into captivity.

Every aspect of the hunt is extremely cruel, from the exhausting drive from the open ocean that can separate mothers and calves and other family groups, to confinement in a netted cove where the dolphins are crudely slaughtered. Last year, nearly 900 dolphins were killed in the drive hunts, with 247 taken alive into captivity.

Killed for their meat, or as a form of ‘pest control’ where dolphins are considered competitors with local fisheries, the dolphins are often held for days before slaughter utilizing methods that do not meet even minimum international standards of care.

Although the month of September is considered a month of reprieve for just bottlenose who are the focus of captures for captive facilities, other species will most certainly be killed. Quotas (the numbers allowed for slaughter by the Japanese authorities) are set at 2,103 dolphins for the 2013-2014 season in Taiji alone. Of this total, nearly 600 bottlenose dolphins may be killed, along with hundreds of other striped, spotted, Risso’s, Pacific white-sided dolphins, false killer whales, and short-finned pilot whales.

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.