WAZA Could Stop the Slaughter

By Ric O’Barry
Dolphin Project

It’s 5:00 AM in Taiji, Japan.  The dolphin-hunting boats are secure to their dock, and the mooring lines are doubled up.  The sea is raging.

This is good for the dolphins.  They will be safe today.

Life and death are here in the Twilight Zone is sometimes dictated by the weather.  A friend of ours, who spent a great deal of time in the Wakayama Prefecture that includes Taiji town, told us this area has the worst weather in all of Japan.  I believe him.

Life and death for these dolphins is also dictated by one Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).  Dr. Dick has the power to abolish the violent captures that in turn would likely end the slaughter.

How?  WAZA is the world society that includes hundreds of zoos and aquariums around the world.  The Japanese regional association of WAZA is the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA).

A member of JAZA is the notorious Taiji Whale Museum.  Dr. Dick and WAZA meanwhile have a policy statement on their website which is an excellent example of obfuscation, denial, and finger-pointing, in very 

polite language, to avoid the reality that JAZA member aquariums and other WAZA member aquariums subsidize the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji by buying live-caught wild dolphins from the dolphin killers at an outrageous price.


WAZA’s “inaction” seems clearly in conflict which their own mission statement which emphasizes conservation and sustainability.


A dolphin killed for the meat market in Taiji will bring around $500-600 for sale.  But a trained live dolphin can be sold for $154,000 or more on the world market for blood dolphin$.  Where do the dolphins go?  A lot are sold in Japan, which now has a hundred facilities (up from 50 just a few years ago) that keep captive dolphins, ranging from large SeaWorld-style theme aquariums to small netted floating platforms in harbors for an “encounter with a dolphin.”  Many others are flown to China and the Middle East.


Just last Sunday, on the first day of the hunt season, the Dolphin Project Team witnessed about 50 or more bottlenose dolphins rounded up and driven into the Cove. 


The next day, dolphin brokers and aquarium officials were out in force with the dolphin hunters, picking over the captives, finding “show quality” dolphins.  One quality they look for is a lack of scarring or skin discoloration.  Another is to get female dolphins, which are more easily dominated and trained than male dolphins in captivity.


Dr. Dick and WAZA proudly established a bizarre and meaningless dance in which the dolphin hunters capture bottlenose dolphins and 

release the rest of the pod after taking animals for captivity.  This is what they did last Monday.  But this scheme only works for bottlenose dolphins, and only works for the month of September. 


Any other species herded into the Cove during September is brutally killed in a welter of blood.  And the rest of the year outside of September?  Those same bottlenose dolphins will be slaughtered just like any other species.  What kind of a slimy and misleading deal is that?  Are the profits of the captive industry so important to WAZA that they will ignore the screams of dying dolphins in Taiji?


The money determines the madness.  As long as the dolphin hunters get the lucrative subsidy from the captivity industry, they will continue the drive hunts, and slaughter any dolphins left behind for the meat.  It is a vicious cycle.


What you can do:


Take the pledge: Don’t buy a ticket to a dolphinarium or a facility with captive dolphins or a swim-with-captive-dolphins program. 


Tell WAZA that they should take steps to discipline aquariums that buy dolphins from drive fisheries like Taiji, the Solomon Islands, and other places around the world. 





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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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