Huge win for Dolphins! JAZA to Stop Sourcing Taiji Dolphins

Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project was delighted to learn recently that after years of international pressure, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) had finally suspended JAZA as a member of its organization. We are ecstatic to announce that further to WAZA’s move, the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums has decided to finally stop sourcing dolphins from the inhumane hunts in Taiji.

“It is our wish at JAZA to remain as a member of WAZA,” chair Kazutoshi Arai said in a letter addressed to WAZA President Lee Ehmke.

The dolphin drives, which became the focus of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove, last for six months of the year and are currently conducted in the small town of Taiji, in the Wakayama prefecture of Japan.

During this period (typically Sept. to Feb.), hundreds of dolphins are driven to shore and are either selected for captivity or slaughtered for food. Those selected for marine parks are sold worldwide at great profit, with many going to China.

The Captivity Industry's "Dirty Little Secret"

The Dolphin Project was the first to call on WAZA to enforce its own Code of Ethics which requires its members to prohibit participating in cruel and non-selective methods of taking animals from the wild. JAZA has many member aquariums who sourced their dolphins directly from the drive hunts in Taiji.

Last year, Ric O’Barry and Sakae Hemmi of the Japanese conservation group, ELSA Nature Conservancy (ENC) and Sigi Luber of Ocean Care, met with Dr. Gerald Dick, the Executive Director of WAZA, to discuss JAZA’s removal of membership status. A series of meetings between ENC,  WAZA and JAZA followed, but resulted in a stalemate. The Dolphin Project has continued to pressure WAZA to take action.

We congratulate and applaud all JAZA members for doing the right thing. Thanks must also go to our Japanese NGO colleagues for their tremendous efforts and our friends and colleagues who showed up at WAZA Headquarters in Switzerland to protest. The protests were key in prompting WAZA to take action.

'The Cove' book/Richard O'Barry and Hans Peter Roth/

‘The Cove’ book/Richard O’Barry and Hans Peter Roth/

We believe that it is captivity that fuels these slaughters, so this is big win for all wild dolphins swimming past the shores of Taiji, Japan. Our work however, continues. China is one of the largest purchasers of dolphins sourced from the drive hunts and we believe they hold the key to curtailing these hunts further. Ric visited China on Earth Day to launch the book The Cove, (Dolphin Bay) by Zhonghua Book Company and authored by O’Barry and Hans Peter Roth.

The Dolphin Project is working overtime to get the Chinese public informed about the violent dolphin captures and imports in the hope that they will get the word out to their friends and share the message: Don’t Buy a Ticket for a Dolphin Show.

JAZA Update

The Dolphin Project was pleased to learn that JAZA members voted to stay in WAZA. Some members however have expressed discontent with this decision and have vowed to leave the organization. We expect the Taiji Whale Museum to break with JAZA in the not too distant future given that Taiji fishermen have vowed not to stop hunting dolphins.

JAZA set a November 2015 board meeting to amend its rules and determine punishment for aquariums that flout the wild dolphin ban. Changes however, are likely to be implemented prior to the commencement of Taiji’s fishing season which begins September 01.

According to the Japanese newspaper — The Mainichi, Prince Akishino, the youngest son of Japan’s emperor, applauded JAZA’s move:

“We have to think about the matter separately from the issue of culture passed down from old times in Japan,” the prince said, “I imagine that it was a difficult decision, but I expect the latest decision to prove positive in the future for the whole of the association.”

The Dolphin Project’s work in Taiji is far from over. That’s why we want your help make this year’s Japan Dolphins Day the biggest yet. We’ve made it easier than ever to participate in, or host an event.

Please consider making a donation. We urgently need funding to continue this most important work.

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About Elizabeth Batt

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Elizabeth is a freelance writer, a former large animal nurse and a former certified NREMT. She is passionate about the ocean and its inhabitants and her work focuses on cetacean-related issues, including captive whales and dolphins. She graduated in psychology and sociology and lives with her family in beautiful northwestern Montana.

Author: Elizabeth Batt


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