Half of dolphins caught in drive hunts in Japan exported

WAKAYAMA (Kyodo) -- About half of dolphins caught in drive hunts in western Japan were exported to China and other countries despite criticism of the hunting technique overseas, according to data confirmed by Kyodo News.

The drive hunt practice, used for decades in the coastal town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, has been criticized as cruel and recently prompted an international association of aquariums to suspend the membership of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums, forcing the Japanese body to ban its domestic members from acquiring drive-hunted dolphins.

JAZA issued the ban last month after the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums threatened to expel the Japanese body if its members continued to purchase such dolphins.

In drive hunting, fishermen capture dolphins by herding them into coves by banging metal poles against their fishing boats. The practice has spurred international controversy, especially after the Oscar-winning 2009 U.S. documentary film "The Cove" showed the bloody slaughter of dolphins during a drive hunt.

According to data from Japan's Fisheries Research Agency, 760 live dolphins were sold between September 2009 and August 2014 after they were caught off Taiji.

The Finance Ministry's trade statistics show 354 live dolphins were exported to 12 countries during the same period, including 216 to China, 36 to Ukraine, 35 to South Korea and 15 to Russia. One dolphin was exported to the United States.

In Japan, live dolphins are supplied only from Taiji, so the dolphins covered by the trade data are presumed to have been caught there.

U.N. data based on the Washington Convention for the protection of endangered species showed the export of live dolphins from Japan between 2009 and 2013 was almost entirely to zoos or aquariums.

According to the WAZA website, China is not represented in the world body through a national association.

An official at an aquarium in western Japan pointed out that WAZA is mainly composed of U.S. and European associations, saying dolphin trade not subject to WAZA rules is prevalent in Asia and other regions.

Between the period between 2009 and 2014, 11 dolphins were also exported to Thailand, followed by 10 each to Vietnam and Saudi Arabia, seven to Georgia, five to Tunisia and four each to Egypt and the Philippines.

June 07, 2015(Mainichi Japan)