The Japan government Fisheries Agency issued 16,496 permits to kill dolphins, porpoises and other small whales for the 2013-2014 season throughout Japan. (When The Cove documentary was being made, the number of annual permits issued at that time was more than 23,000.) The numbers killed in Japan varies from year to year.
In 2007, for example, 13,107 dolphins and small whales were reported killed in Japan waters. In 2011, only 3,283 dolphins were killed, as many of the ports in northern Japan were wiped out by the tragic earthquake and tsunami in March that year. These numbers do not include the hundreds of large whales killed by Japan under so-called “scientific” whaling permits in the North Pacific and Antarctic Oceans.
The number of dolphins killed has been decreasing in part due to successful efforts by the Earth Island Save Japan Dolphins Campaign and other organizations to reduce sales of dolphin and whale meat in Japanese markets. The other reason the kill rate is going down is that the Japanese fishermen are killing off dolphins, and there are simply not as many left to kill. Further, as noted above, the March 2011 tsunami wiped out many ports in northern Japan where hunting for Dall’s porpoises took place, and these hunts are only now starting up again.
About 700 to 1,800 of these dolphins are killed in the so-called dolphin drive hunt in Taiji, also known as a “drive fishery.” The number being killed is declining since our Save Japan Dolphin Campaign was implemented. The balance of dolphins are killed with hand-held harpoons from small boats at sea around the coast of Japan, especially in northern ports, aimed at Dall’s porpoise. There is a small dolphin hunt in Okinawa.
The targeted dolphin species include:
- Striped dolphins
- Bottlenose dolphins
- Pantropical spotted dolphins
- Risso’s dolphins (also called Grampus)
- Pilot whales
- Rough-toothed dolphins
- Pseudo orcas (also called False Killer whales)
- Pacific white-sided dolphins
- Baird’s beaked whales
- Dall’s porpoises
Taiji dolphin hunters also caught ten Orca whales in 2007 for captivity. They have all subsequently died an early death in captivity.
*Photo from Huffington Post / OPS