Counting the Dead: Taiji’s Expendable Dolphins

Taiji, 12-22-16: For the third time in two weeks, Dolphin Project Cove Monitors witnessed a body being pulled out of the harbor pens. While trainers did their best to hide their actions, we captured photographic evidence of the dead dolphins, proving once again that captivity kills.

Whether it’s from the ruthless drives, where pods of dolphins are forced to swim at top speeds for extended periods to evade hunters, or from the stress of being confined in the cove, often left for days without food or shelter, or from the failed acclimation of captivity itself, the brutality dolphins are forced to endure at the hands of humans is unthinkable, and certainly not cultural or traditional in any sense of these words. And while the Taiji Fisherman’s Association has released a quota of 1820 dolphins as allowable “take” for the 2016/17 hunting season (slaughter and captivity combined), many more die unaccounted for.

Dead adult pilot whale floating in the cove, Taiji, Japan, 12-8-16

Dead adult pilot whale floating in the cove, Taiji, Japan, 12-8-16

The cost of doing business

Two weeks ago, a dolphin succumbed to the stress of captivity and died in the harbor pens, species unknown. Yesterday, another body, believed to be a bottlenose dolphin, was pulled from the pens. Assuming it’s one of the approximately 150 bottlenose dolphins that have been presold to non-JAZA aquariums in Japan and overseas, it will simply be replaced and eventually shipped to the seller. And just today, another life was lost, this time, the victim was believed to be a pantropical spotted dolphin, likely caught in the drive of December 12. It’s white-tipped rostrum was captured on our team’s cameras, poking out from underneath the tarps as the dolphin lay dead.

Dead bottlenose dolphin removed from harbor pens, Taiji, Japan, 12-21-16

Dead bottlenose dolphin removed from harbor pens, Taiji, Japan, 12-21-16

Pantropical spotted dolphin lies dead underneath tarps, Taiji, Japan, 12-22-16

Pantropical spotted dolphin lies dead underneath tarps, Taiji, Japan, 12-22-16

From watching these majestic pods swimming free in the open ocean to seeing specifically selected individuals being hauled aboard skiffs, totally helpless and at the mercy of those seeking to profit from their confinement is a painful process. Knowing several of these dolphins will not survive the “break-in” period is even more disheartening. And what of the individuals who do survive, their “reward” not to be freed back to their wild world but instead, trucked, flown and otherwise carted to another tank, complete with a new set of trainers and another alien environment.

And this can be called entertainment?

A turning tide

We have made great strides in educating the public about the horrors of dolphin captivity, and have seen many positive changes for dolphins in 2016. From the Baltimore National Aquarium announcing plans to build a natural seawater sanctuary for the eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins currently in their care to the state of California passing legislation that will ban orca breeding to several travel agencies in Denmark ending their support of dolphinariums, the tide is turning.

Dolphin Project is entering our 47th year as the longest-running charity created solely for the protection of dolphins. We will continue our international work, including reporting live from Taiji, Japan for the duration of the hunting season, ensuring what takes place here is exposed to the world, in all it’s dishonor.

Related: Below the Surface – Taiji to the Trained Eye



It’s fast, it’s simple and it’s effective. Take the Pledge now and share with your friends!

Take The Pledge to Not Visit a Dolphin Show!


Dolphin Project will be on the ground in Taiji during the entire killing season, live streaming, blogging and disseminating information for the world to see. Your support has never been more crucial and is greatly appreciated.

Click Here to Donate


Interested in joining us in Taiji? Learn about becoming a Dolphin Project Cove Monitor and submit your application, free of charge.

Ric O'Barry Dolphin Project Cove Monitors at The Cove


Don't be shellfish...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditBuffer this pageShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someonePrint this page

About Cara Sands

View All Posts

It might be true that we don't recall many moments from our early years. However, Cara's first memory of a dolphin had her begging her parents to ask the trainer to let the dolphin go! The problem with captivity was evident to her, even as a 4 year-old child.

A writer by trade, Cara has researched, investigated and documented dolphins suffering in captivity. From documenting dolphins incarcerated in buildings, cut-off from fresh air, sunlight and normal socialization to researching cases of animals imprisoned in solitary confinement, Cara is a dedicated dolphin welfare advocate.

It is her belief that education equals empowerment. The more information shared, the better our choices and knowledge of how to act as a positive and respectful voice for dolphins across the world.

Cara is based out of Canada and makes time whenever possible to observe dolphins in their natural environments. She is writing her first fiction novel but knowing her, the marine world will play a prominent role in her book!

"The use of animals for entertainment is nothing more than an abuse of dominance. Some of the most sentient species on the planet have been exploited to incomprehensible levels, all due to their inherent benevolence. Ironic, considering that we turn to the abused themselves for displays of humanity."
~ Cara Sands

Author: Cara Sands


Lost your password?