Dolphin Deaths Stacking Up in Taiji Japan

False Killer Whale Photo taken by Brian Barnes of Save Japan Dolphins in 2010-11 Season

The False Killer Whale is one of the worlds most fascinating dolphins on the planet. They are rather odd looking  gentle giants that can’t help but look sweet. They are extremely social with pod members living together for a lifetime. If you watch them in the wild they swim together, touching, and twisting, mothers nursing and juveniles playing. Their numbers are dwindling quickly thanks to long line fishing, pollution and hunters.

On October 7th at 605 pm Pacific Time Tia Butt Cove monitor for Save Japan Dolphins relayed that the banger boats were driving a pod of dolphins into the Cove. She could not identify the species. This message was bad news to exhausted dolphin conservationists who only two 3 days before on September 4th, 2011 had witnessed a slaughter of 28-30 striped dolphins.  Activist Sarah Legg witnessed the drive and slaughter,”We watched as they rounded the dolphins into the cove but not before we saw something magical, a baby dolphin, a newborn! jumping 3 metres into the air”. they were then taken to their deaths Once dolphin was spared to be taken into captivity. That dolphin may be sold for upward $150,000 once trained, paying for several days of dolphin hunting.

The world prayed they wouldn’t find dolphins on September 7th, but the skies were clear and the ocean calm, perfect for dolphin hunting. At 6:50 PM Pacific Tia Butt reported “Part of this pod managed to escape this vile evil from the entrance of harbour. The rest are waiting their fate. I’m sorry sweet souls. We are with you through this. Again the drive is on.” And so we waited for news, and then at around 7:40PM Pacific Time reports from the cove began to come in:

Via Tia Butt“Dolphin hunters have put a net around this poor pod and trapped them in at entrance of harbour. Will update.”

8:52 Pacific Get Educated Legg The dolphins are trapped in a small net just outside the harbour, in the open. While the dolphins are panicking to fishermen are having lunch 😦

via Tia Butt: The last of what looks like to be 17 large False killer whales has just been shoved into cramped sea pens in Taiji. Spread the word about the EVIL of captivity. Watching these beautiful animals go through this ordeal today and now doomed to this life was disgusting and very sad.

October 8, 2011 via Sarah Legg, Shinto Festival the boats didnt go out today but the fishermen did, they showed the false killer whales to different trainers and moved the unlucky three to different holding pens. the rest will not be harmed until after the festival.

It is hard to imagine the fear and horror that the pod of False Killer Whales experienced in the cramped harbor pens. False killer whales are large cetaceans, that live in gregarious societies. Scientists believe that the cetaceans have social skills more advanced than those of man. They are known to be playful, and curious. They only have give birth every 7 years, and their calves nurse for almost 2 years. The false killer whale data on population is somewhat sketchy but scientists estimate, Hawaii has only 240 false killer whales are known to survive and 1040 of the gulf coast. In Japan there are only 40,000 remaining. Now 17 wait at dolphin base for the Shinto Festival to end. The false killer whales were looked over by buyers, purchased and then carted away by truck to a lonely life in a cement tank with strangers. The remaining 7-8 False killer whales awaited their death. They must have known as the trainers didn’t feed them, “John Legg
“We are sat on the dock side watching the whales , 4pm , 1 gone and they are feeding 2 more, the rest are going hungry”.

Before the light of day the dolphin hunter set up flood lights, tied the poor false killer whales to their boats, and dragged them to the blood Cove where a death more painful than any human could ever imagine awaited them. “Jackie Legg
We arrived to a floodlit harbour where the false killer whales were being tied to sciffs and dragged round to The Cove to be killed… ” Each dolphin would suffer as long as 10 minutes as the killer carved out their spinal cords, and drove bamboo nails into their sensitive blow holes. The pod and it’s rich tradition gone forever. Now there is one less pod of killer whales on this planet.

The Risso Dolphin Fought Hard to Avoid Death (Picture provided by SSCS)

Less than 24 hours later, another pod of dolphins would be driven into the cove and brutally murdered. 12-15 Risso dolphins fought hard, but the hunter sandwiched them between to nets and literally dragged them into the cove. The risso dolphins would not be looked kept for captivity. Instead, the hunters dragged them behind their blue tarps of death and brutally slaughtered every family member, and then transported the dead under tarps to the filthy slaughterhouse where their cadavers would be butchered and readied for packaging.

The people of Taiji want us to understand their history. Taiji is the epicenter for whaling, a history that spans 100’s of years. Unfortunately pride, and tradition, are words describing human emotions and beliefs. Traditions are not static but must be ever changing.  Dolphins on the other are tangible living beings that inhabit an ocean that is suffering more each day thanks to human intervention. More challenges face cetaceans than ever before, and much like the towns people of Taiji they too have rich cultural traditions that should be valued and cherished by their human counterparts on land.

The town folk of Taiji say “Gaiatsu” outside pressure will not work to stop the dolphin drives. They feel they have a right to what they are doing and will continue to do so apparently until the dolphins are gone off of Taiji much like Iki island. We the dolphin activists want to know what will it take to stop this terrible loss of life at a time when we know so much more about cetacean intelligence. Cetaceans are not pigs or cows as documented by scientists worldwide, “Bottlenose dolphins have convincingly demonstrated that they use a mirror to investigate their own bodies, showing that they have a sense of self (Reiss and Mrino, 2001). These findings are consistent with further evidence for self-awareness and self-monitoring in dolphins and related cognitive abilities (see Marino et al, 2008, for a review). In particular, the highly elaborated cingulate and insular cortex in cetacean brains are consistent with the idea that these animals are highly sophisticated and sensitive in the emotional and social -emotional sophistication not achieved by other animals including humans.

I appeal now to the people of Taiji. Please stop the greedy few. I implore you there are other ways, and the world is just waiting. The dolphins teach us unconditional love, caring, and forgiveness. Please take these lessons from the dolphins you should know so well. Give them a place of honor instead making them a meal. It is 2011, not 100’s of years ago. Taiji please show mercy to the dolphins, before it is too late.


►Taiji Mayor Sangen…City Hall


Phone:             81-73-559-2335

Fax: 81-73-559-2801

►Taiji Fishermens Union (The FU)

Phone:             81-73-559-2340

Fax: 81-73-559-2821

►Japanese Embassies and Consulates Websites

►Prime Minister of JAPAN /

PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN Online comment form

call to prime minister officer in Japan             +81 73-5592340       or            +81 03-35810101

More Contact information and ways to help dolphins

13 thoughts on “Dolphin Deaths Stacking Up in Taiji Japan

  1. Kirsten, do you know yet if anybody is keeping a census of the numbers of all of the dolphins that have been slaughtered and also “saved” for imprisonment? Maybe somebody who reads this will have the total number. We need to remember each and every one of them.

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  3. Culture & tradition are ever changing. True. Changes occur as the locals adopts new things and adapt to new circumstances. But you can’t force them to change… it’s called Cultural Imperialism.

    If you want them the locals & dolphin meat eaters to change, establish a good relation with them and offer them more profitable jobs. In Solomon Islands the EII made agreement with the fishermen that EII’ll bring tuna industry for the fishermen so that they’d enjoy a profitable life.

    Did the activists do it in Taiji? No they didn’t. Ric O’Barry claims he offered money. He claims a dolphin sold into captivity fetches up to $200,000, but did he offer the fishermen $200,000 a dolphin? Probably not, but even if he did money is not a long-term solution. Job is. So he came up with the idea of dolphin watching. But it is not suitable alternative in winter, when seas around Japan is very rough. Taiji is not like Solomon Island in tropical area.

    So it’s not a matter of pride or tradition as the westerners often describes. Offer them practicable & long-term alternatives (this is the key), then the hunt would stop. They are also looking for alternatives as we speak.

    • Although I agree that long-term alternatives are the answer, and God knows every other small village in Japan needs them, in this case conceitedness*, not pride, most certainly has a part in the equation. That as simply the rigidity and obstinateness or old men.

      In this case, the conceitedness is that their income is worth more to them than the overall damage this activity is causing Japan. And it is causing Japan measurable financial and reputational damage.

      Also agree that eco-tourism and whale watching are not serious alternatives, nor will they provide an equivalent income, so here we face nothing more than the greed for more, easier money.

      The slaughtermen could fish or carry out other less unethical tasks. They choose not to because they don’t make so much money.

      It is not for us to offer them anything. They are too conceited to accept anything from Westerners now. It is only for us to make their lives harder, business less profitable and standing in society worse.

      What they should be doing is going to their government and asking their government for an alternative, rather than allowing their government to use them as pawns in a stupid, egotistical game.

      I agree — we want a positive, financially and environmentally sustainable alternative career! But that is for them and their government to sort out.

      *Conceitedness: holding or characterized by an unduly high opinion of oneself;

    • Yes, and it’s doubly cultural imperialism when you’re not even bothering to save a species just as smart that is eaten by the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS per year in your own country. Pigs have saved people’s lives and self-recognize in a mirror but apparently you’d rather save 10,000 dolphins a year.

      Imagine what people would say if a Hindu came to America and told us all to stop eating beef.

      • In fact Kevin you are absolutely wrong. Dolphins and whales have brains as large and complex as man’s. I suggest you check today’s Science. Try reading a book written by scientists called “Whales and Dolphins, Cognition, Culture, Conservation, and Human Perceptions”. Dolphins are the people of the sea whether you like it or not.

    • I live in an area that once survived on Whaling, fishing for tuna, and logging. They cut down all the trees so that job was gone, The over fished the tuna so that job was gone. And the trees didn’t grow back quickly enough to support families indefinitely so that job is gone. What have we done? Created new jobs, tourism, technology we have several internet companies that have offices here. Economy is not a good enough excuse for killing the people of the sea. Science tells us their brains are as developed an as large as mans. Now is the time to stop killing and imprisoning cetaceans.

  4. Thank you Kirsten…there is no rest and or letting up on helping these beautiful creatures. thank you for your article and your all your efforts…always.

    • Pamela we will continue this fight together. We must be the voice for those that cannot communicate with man. The dolphin hunters say outside pressure will have no effect yet each day they put up more tarps, and try to hide their killing in the dark to keep watchful eyes out. They may be determined to kill the people of the sea, but we are just as determined to stop them! I believe together we can make a difference.

    • Thanks for your comment Alyson. Your experiences in Japan, definitely helped me to move forward with this post. We will continue to fight. The dolphin hunters say outside pressure from us, gaiatsu will make no difference but we can see that they are trying to hide their killing activities more and more everyday. So the pressure must be making some difference. We will continue fighting until this terrible waste of cetacean life has ended.

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