Taiji Update: Dolphin Quotas and Mercury

By Ric O’Barry

In Taiji, we have now confirmed that none of the fishermen’s “banger boats” that are used to herd dolphins into the Cove were harmed by the tsunami.  While a tsunami hit the harbor, the boats were not damaged.  Two larger catcher vessels for whales, the kind with harpoon guns on the bows, were also unharmed, and have now gone north to Hokkaido to engage in whaling of coastal minke whales for Japan’s bogus “research” whaling.

Our team in Japan this week checked with the Japan Fisheries Agency about the quotas for next season’s dolphin hunts in Taiji.  Quotas have not yet been issued for Taiji and won’t be until June.  That annual hunt starts Sept. 1st.

But we can get an idea of the carnage expected from last year’s quotas, issued for August 2010 through July 2011 for the Taiji drive hunts:

134 Pacific white-sided dolphins

450 Striped dolphins

700 Bottlenose dolphins

400 Spotted dolphins

280 Risso’s dolphins

207 Pilot whales

70 False killer whales

2,241 dolphins total quota in Taiji

These quotas are extremely controversial.  These quotas easily exceed the actual kill of dolphins each year, making them meaningless from a conservation standpoint.

The International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee has repeatedly condemned the hunts for Dall’s porpoise off Japan’s northern coast, asking Japan repeatedly to justify the high quotas they issue each year.  A staggering near one-half million Dall’s porpoises have been slaughtered in Japan since the IWC agreed to the moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982.  Japan has refused to give the IWC Scientific Committee or the full IWC any information to support these huge hunt quotas, claiming it is none of the IWC’s business because these are small cetaceans, not large ones.

But as I’ve said, size doesn’t matter!  A whale is a dolphin is a porpoise, and all should be protected equally.  There is no excuse for Japan to issue permits exceeding the “safe” levels of hunting these animals.

As we also know, Dolphin Project’s Campaign and other organizations have shown for years that dolphin meat is highly contaminated with toxic pollutants, including poisonous mercury levels far exceeding so-called “safe” levels.  The Japan government and the health authorities are ignoring the problem of mercury contamination.

No one should be eating the meat of these dolphins and small whales.

We should also remember that the quotas include dolphins captured for aquariums and swim-with-dolphins programs around the world, too.  The trade in Blood Dolphins helps subsidize the slaughter of these wonderful animals.  Don’t fall for the hype of marine parks and dolphinariums; don’t buy a ticket!

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About Ric O'Barry

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Ric O’Barry, Dolphin Project Founder & Director has worked on both sides of the captive dolphin issue, making him an invaluable asset in the efforts to end exploitation. He worked for 10 years within the dolphin captivity industry, and has spent the past 40 working against it.

In the 1960s, O’Barry was employed by the Miami Seaquarium, where he captured and trained dolphins, including the five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular American TV-series of the same name. He also trained Hugo, the first orca kept in captivity east of the Mississippi. When Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper most of the time, died in his arms, O’Barry realized that capturing dolphins and training them to perform silly tricks is simply wrong.

From that moment on, O’Barry knew what he must do with his life. On the first Earth Day, 1970, he launched a searing campaign against the multi-billion dollar dolphin captivity industry and has been going at it ever since.

Over the past 40 years, Ric O’Barry has rescued and rehabilitated dolphins in many countries around the world, including Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas Islands and the United States. He is a leading voice in the fight to end brutal dolphin hunts in Japan, the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, and wherever else they occur.

O’Barry has been recognized by many national and international entities for his dedicated efforts, such as being voted Huffington Post’s 2010 Most Influential Green Game Changer, and being listed on O Magazine’s 2010 Power List – Men We Admire for his “Power of Passion.” O’Barry received an Environmental Achievement Award, presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program. He has done countless interviews with such prestigious news programs as Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, the Mike Huckabee Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

His book Behind the Dolphin Smile was published in 1989; a second book, To Free A Dolphin was published in September 2000. Both of them are about his work and dedication. He is the star of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove and the Animal Planet television series Blood Dolphin$.

Author: Ric O'Barry
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