Japanese fishermen in Taiji Cove have corralled an estimated 250 bottlenose dolphins as part of the Village of Taiji’s annual dolphin capture event touted by the villagers as a “cultural tradition.” The 5 initial pods of captive dolphins now face imminent slaughter or a lifetime of captivity being sold to world aquariums.
Taiji is a Japanese village of approximately 3,200 residents and located on the Pacific coast in the Higashimuro District, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. Taiji is approximately 50 miles south of the Japanese city of Osaka.
The yearly event caused much controversy since the Taiji tradition was first publicized in 2009 as the main focus for the documentary The Cove. The hard-hitting film won an Academy Award in 2010, bringing the event to the attention of worldwide conservationists.
Footage of the annual slaughter was streamed live by the environmental group Sea Shepherd. The non-profit group is based in Friday Harbor, Washington and protects marine life as their main mandate.
The yearly event in Taiji starts by upwards of 250 dolphins being herded by the fisherman into the secluded Taiji Cove. The new massive pod of captive dolphins then await their imminent sentencing to either be stabbed to death for meat or segregated to be chosen for a lifetime of captivity. Dolphins chosen for being sold into captivity can number up to a few dozen, while the rest of the numbers are slaughtered for food by the Japanese fishermen.
On Saturday the Sea Shepherd said that up to 25 dolphins were divided from the rest of the pod to be sold to world aquariums. One of the dolphins included in those chosen for sale was a rare young albino bottlenose dolphin. During the segregation, the group said that it appeared that one of the 25 chosen for captivity died and would now be butchered. According to the Sea Shepherd, those that were hand-picked for captivity would be forced to watch as the fisherman brutally slaughtered the remainder of the dolphin pod for human consumption.
The event started at 1 p.m. Pacific Coast Time on Saturday afternoon, but after the selection process was finished the afternoon’s activities had come to an end without the slaughter beginning. The environmental group said it was unclear when the slaughter would actually occur.
The Taiji Fisheries Cooperative Association is in charge of the yearly Japanese dolphin hunt was not available to make any comments on the 2014 hunt. However the Wakayama Prefecture officials did issue a statement accusing the environmentalists of “psychological harassment.” The statement went on to say that the Taiji fisherman are in full accordance with rules and regulations and are conducting a legal fishing activity that is in their traditional Japanese ways. The officials said they were supervising the event for both the prefectural and national governments.
The Sea Shepherd says that these dolphins will face a violent and stressful experience at the hands of their captors. The selection process will separate babies from their mothers, some are killed and others driven back out into open ocean waters to fend for themselves.
Caroline Kennedy was sworn in last year as the U.S. Ambassador to the country of Japan. Kennedy tweeted on social media saying she was deeply concerned by the Taiji dolphin hunt’s “inhumaneness.”
As of Saturday night, the 250 dolphins still await their imminent slaughter or a lifetime of captivity.
By Brent Matsalla