Wednesday, June 10, 2015

VAOJ Catch-up: More "Cove" Related News

This news isn't really so new, but VAOJ fell behind during the end of the academic semester and final's week. VAOJ has long been following events surrounding the film "The Cove." Below are a couple of articles describing recent developments.

"Japanese aquariums vote to stop getting dolphins from Taiji hunt"

From Japan Today, 5/21/15:

Japan’s zoos and aquariums voted Wednesday to stop using dolphins caught by the controversial “drive hunt” method in Taiji, allowing them to remain part of a global body that had suspended the country’s chapter over the issue.

The vote was prompted by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (WAZA) suspension of the Japanese chapter (JAZA) last month, saying it had refused to stop taking dolphins caught in the southern Japanese whaling town.

Taiji came to worldwide attention after the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” showed pods of the animals forced into a bay and butchered with knives, in a mass killing that turned the water red with blood.

“JAZA will prohibit its members to acquire wild dolphins caught by drive fishing in Taiji and to take part in their export and sale,” JAZA chairman Kazutoshi Arai said in a letter to WAZA following the vote, which saw an overwhelming majority (99) of the 152 members opt to remain part of the global body.

JAZA does not regard drive hunt as “cruel”, Arai told during a press briefing, adding that a dolphin from Taiji costs about a million yen.

“Various facilities (zoos and aquariums) will have to cooperate to promote breeding,” Arai said.

Earlier, JAZA executive director Kensho Nagai said: “We annually take about 20 dolphins from Taiji, but we have improved how we hunt, separating our hunt from everything else at Taiji that is for dolphin meat.

“But we don’t have control over the rest of the dolphin catch, part of which is said to be sold by local brokers to aquariums in China and the Middle East,” he added.

Taiji residents have long defended the drive hunt saying its purpose is to obtain dolphin meat, which they say is a traditional part of their diet.

But some live dolphins are also sold on after the drive hunt—which typically involves pushing the animals together with boats and closing off their escape, forcing them into a coastal bay.

Critics of the practice say there is insufficient demand for dolphin meat and drive hunting is only profitable because of the high prices live dolphins can fetch when sold to aquariums and dolphin shows.

“WAZA requires all members to adhere to policies that prohibit participating in cruel and non-selective methods of taking animals from the wild,” the global body said when it suspended JAZA.

A weekend Japanese report said nearly half the dolphins in the country’s aquariums are caught using the controversial fishing method, but it did not specify whether the dolphins came from Taiji.

Chief Cabinet Secretary and top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday the government “is aware” of the controversy between WAZA and its Japanese chapter, and “the government will take measures to avoid any ramifications on exhibitions in aquariums.”

The drive hunt “is a sustainable fishing (method) under appropriate control by… the government with scientific foundations, and is being carried out carefully so that dolphins are not hurt,” Suga said.


Taiji fishermen vow to continue dolphin slaughter

From Japan Today, 5/28/15:

Japanese fishermen vowed Wednesday to continue their dolphin hunt, despite a pledge by zoos and aquariums not to buy animals caught with the controversial method.

“We will never stop it,” Yoshifumi Kai of the fisherman’s cooperative in the western Japanese town of Taiji, where the hunt takes place, told reporters.

The press conference came a week after Japan’s zoos and aquariums voted to stop using dolphins caught by the so-called “drive hunt” method, as demanded by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

Some dolphins are captured alive and sold to aquariums, fetching about 1 million yen each.

The vote was prompted by WAZA’s suspension of the Japanese chapter (JAZA) last month over the issue.

WAZA regards drive hunt fishing—where pods of cetaceans are herded into a bay by a wall of sound before being butchered—as “cruel”, a charge local fishermen reject.

“It’s unclear which part of the drive hunt WAZA considers cruel,” Kai said.

“We used to harpoon dolphins but that’s several decades ago. Now we sever the spinal cord in a moment and there is not much blood.”

Shuichi Matsumoto, head of another local fisherman’s group, said they “have not broken any rules,” adding the group wants to continue the tradition and pass it on to future generations.

Taiji came to worldwide attention after the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary “The Cove” showed pods of the animals forced into a bay and slaughtered with knives, in a mass killing that turned the water red with blood.

Animal rights activists continue to protest in the town, despite hostility from locals who say they are victims of anti-Japanese bias.

Many of the dolphins are butchered for food, but campaigners claim there is insufficient demand for their relatively unpopular meat to make the hunt economically worthwhile.

They charge that the high prices live animals fetch when sold to aquariums and dolphin shows is the only thing that sustains the hunt.

Despite the overwhelming vote last week by JAZA to abandon the Taiji hunt, five aquariums are reportedly considering leaving the organisation so they can continue to source dolphins from the town.

However, the vote has left aquariums with the problem of how to continue to stock their facilities—only 12 to 13% of dolphins at Japanese aquariums are captive-bred, compared with 70% in the United States, according to JAZA.


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