First Capture of Pacific White-sided Dolphins

Taiji, Japan, 1-28-16

At 6:40 a.m., the sun peaked over the horizon, and 12 boats left Taiji harbor in search for dolphins. We all hoped for a day of blue and a break from the horrors of last week. When the first and second boats returned empty-handed, it seemed like the dolphins would swim free today. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Black smoke from banger boats pursuing dolphins, Taiji, Japan Photo credit: Dolphin Project

Black smoke from banger boats pursuing dolphins, Taiji, Japan
Photo credit: Dolphin Project

Approximately 11:30 a.m., five hours after the hunt first began, a drive formation became visible on the horizon. Ten boats slowly moved the pod of dolphins closer to shore, and splashes could be seen from one end of the formation to the other. It was either a very large pod, or the dolphins had spread themselves out.

Pacific white-sided dolphins caught for captivity, Taiji, Japan

Pacific white-sided dolphins caught for captivity, Taiji, Japan
Photo credit: Dolphin Project

By the time the boats approached our lookout, it appeared that only half a dozen remained, and we identified them as Pacific white-sided dolphins. This would mark the first drive of the season for this species. Typically, as these dolphins are highly sought after for dolphinariums, they are not driven into the cove. Much like striped dolphins, they panic in the confines of shallow water, and injured animals don’t yield the types of profit as “pretty” ones do. Thus, hunters have adopted the practice of netting the dolphins offshore and sending divers into the water to retrieve them.

By 12:30 p.m. the large banger boats had encircled the dolphins with a net outside of the harbor, divers were in the water, and skiffs were laying more nets to tighten the space – enabling the divers to physically catch each dolphin. One by one, the dolphins were wrapped in a net and hoisted into a skiff containing both hunters and dolphin trainers from the Taiji Whale Museum. Each dolphin thrashed violently in the bottom of the skiff as they were taken the short distance to the harbor pens.

Pacific white-sided dolphins dumped into harbor pen

Pacific white-sided dolphins dumped into harbor pen, Taiji, Japan
Photo credit: Dolphin Project

The rough, careless manhandling of the dolphins continued, as they were lifted out of the skiffs and thrown into sea pens. Dumped like garbage. Trainers stood and watched the dolphins for a few moments, then left.

Four dolphins lost their freedom today, stolen from the ocean, all for profit and “entertainment.” This is where it begins, not during the actual show. There is nothing entertaining about stolen freedom.

Please help us spread the word. Together, we can end this.

Text by Heather Hill, Dolphin Project Senior Cove Monitor. Photos and additional information from Cove Monitors Ernie Ismail, Julie Watson and Terry Dark.



Take the pledge to NOT buy a ticket to a dolphin show.


Your help in supporting our campaign in Taiji is greatly appreciated and needed. Click here to donate.


Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the USA (Tax ID 47-1665067), and donations are tax-deductible.

Featured image: What captivity looks like – wrapped in nets and stolen from the ocean.
Photo credit: Dolphin Project


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?