Dolphins captured over the weekend in Taiji Cove, Japan, as part of the yearly dolphin hunt are gaining support from Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and Yoko Ono. The Japanese government has continued to defend the annual dolphin hunt, which takes place September through April, as part of a long-time, cultural tradition.
Kennedy has been vocal about speaking against the capture of 250 dolphins herded into Taiji Cove, awaiting life or death. The pretty ones are chosen to survive but end up spending their lives in marine parks and aquariums. One of the first to be chosen to live is a rare albino infant separated from its mother. The remaining ones are slaughtered for human consumption or sent back out to sea. Dolphin meat contains high levels of mercury, which is another separate concern, but one that Japan apparently claims has been overstated.
The Japanese government is upset with Kennedy for expressing her lack of support for their country’s tradition. Dolphin hunting is the dream of young Japanese boys who want to follow in their elders’ footsteps and become dolphin and whale hunters. The government feels Kennedy is displaying a conflict of interest by acting as ambassador while expressing her strong disapproval against dolphin hunting.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday during a news conference that dolphin hunting is legal under Japanese law, and there has been no wrongdoing in the capture and detainment of the 250 dolphins in Taiji Cove. “Dolphin fishing is a form of traditional fishing in our country,” Suga said. “We will explain Japan’s position to the American side.”
Amid all of this action, there has been no word from the Wakayama Prefecture, where Taiji Cove is located, and where the dolphin captives are overseen. If the prefecture is not talking, the local fishermen are, making a point of defending their work. Hence why dolphins in Japan are gaining support from Caroline Kennedy and Yoko Ono.
An anonymous fisherman said his and other fishermen’s livelihood should not be adversely affected by a tradition that has been in Japan for centuries. He commented also on the hypocrisy from those who judge them for killing dolphins for meat when the world consumes beef, pork and chicken.
For John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, the mission is personal. Japan is her native country, and she is joining the chorus of voices rising in protest against the cruel practice of dolphin hunting. In a letter to Japan published on her website Monday, she implored her country to reconsider ending the killing of dolphins to prevent any further friction from surrounding countries:
But I think you should think of this situation from the point-of-view of the big picture. Japan has gone through such hard times lately. And we need the sympathy and help of the rest of the world. It will give an excuse for big countries and their children in China, India and Russia to speak ill of Japan when we should be communicating our strong love for peace, not violence.
The “hard times” Ono refers to is likely the Fukushima power plant disaster in 2011, the aftereffects of which are still being felt throughout the world, through the contamination of our oceans and marine life. Ono ends her letter by requesting that Japan stop the dolphin hunting for good lest the world continue to look upon Japan as willfully arrogant and imperialistic.
What began as a traditional means of capturing dolphins for meat has grown into an industry that has earned a pretty penny by selling dolphins to marine parks for entertainment. Because dolphin meat is not the only meat source for the Japanese, there is no real reason to continue hunting dolphins for food although it has been a Taiji delicacy for many years. Now, the real money appears to lie in selling the beautiful creatures into lifelong captivity.
From the years 2000 to 2012, a total of 1299 dolphins have been sold into captivity. The number of dolphins wantonly killed during those years is 16,892, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation group. This is why dolphins in Japan are gaining support from Caroline Kennedy and Yoko Ono, amongst many others.
By Juana Poareo