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Risso’s dolphins killed in latest Taiji hunt

Barely a couple of weeks since the massacre of almost 1,500 Atlantic white-sided dolphins in the Faroe Islands comes more horrifying news of dolphins being hunted, this time on the other side of the northern hemisphere. 

On 1st September the infamous annual hunt of dolphins began in the small Japanese coastal town of Taiji. Unlike in the Faroes, the fishers here are issued with kill-quotas, an allowable number of different species of dolphin that can be slaughtered (this includes pilot, false killer and melon-headed whales as they are technically dolphins too). This year that number is 1,849 individuals - 100 more than were allowed last year.

The full quota consists of: 101 short-finned pilot whales, 450 striped dolphins, 280 pantropical spotted dolphins, 298 bottlenose dolphins, 100 Pacific white-sided dolphins, 20 rough-toothed dolphins, 251 Risso’s dolphins, 300 melon-headed whales and 49 false killer whales.

Unlike the Faroes, there is also a dedicated ‘hunting season’ which runs from approximately 1st September to 1st March. During these months, every dolphin driven into the killing bay is either captured alive for a life of confinement in a marine park, slaughtered, or returned to the sea, traumatised and sometimes alone.

So far this ‘season’, several dolphins have already been taken into captivity (seven bottlenose dolphins and at least two pilot whales) and more than 50 dolphins have been slaughtered. News of the killing has been harrowing. One drive saw 33 pilot whales driven into shore, two were captured whilst 10 of the larger individuals were slaughtered. The rest were herded back out to sea where they became trapped in offshore nets with at least one more dying as a result. Then just yesterday news came in of a pod of eight juvenile Risso’s dolphins having been herded to shore. Seven were immediately slaughtered whilst the remaining dolphin, deemed too much trouble to kill, was dumped back out at sea. Risso’s dolphins are highly social and younger dolphins will struggle to survive without the companionship of others, let alone deal with the trauma of seeing friends killed so horrifically in front of them.

Commenting on this latest tragic news, WDC policy manager Nicola Hodgins said: 'I’m running out of words to describe the feelings I have when I bear witness to such horror, such barbarism and such pain but it spurs me on to keep working to try and bring an end to dolphin hunts the world over. No dolphin deserves to die this way. No dolphin deserves to die without dignity and end his or her life with so much pain and suffering.'

Find out more about the hunting of dolphins and small whales.

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Small cetacean report


A global review of the impacts of hunting on small whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Read our in-depth report into the hunting of small whales and dolphins around the world (published in 2018).

Download the PDF.

About George Berry

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

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