Not only does the Japanese town of Taiji have no intentions of ending its brutal dolphin hunt in which fishermen drive the animals into a cove, entrapping them for slaughter. On Monday, a municipal official, Masaki Wada, announced that the town plans to open a marine park which will not be far from the infamous hunt that turns the waters red with blood that was shown in the 2009 documentary The Cove.
Tourists visiting Taiji in Japan’s western Wakayama prefecture will be able to swim and kayak with bottlenose dolphins and black whales who have been captured from nearby waters. They will also have the chance to dine on dolphin meat and “various marine products” while simultaneously watching the marine mammals.
As Wada explains the plan, opening a marine park as well as some sort of eatery with dolphin on the menu is a first step in “Taiji’s long-term plan of making the whole town a park.” A section of the park is to open in the next five years; it is to contain a 69-acre section of the cove that is to be be cordoned off with a net and that will be separate from Hatakejiri Bay where the dolphin hunt occurs.
The plan to create the marine park is, Wada insists, not a sign that the town and the local fishing industry are giving in to the demands of conservationists. Rather, the creation of the marine park is said to be “aimed at helping to sustain” the dolphin hunt.
But for every year that the dolphin hunt is still held in Taiji, the town becomes more and more associated with an inhumane and archaic practice. According to Wakayama Prefecture records, 1,277 dolphins were caught in the 2012 season. Under its current license, Taiji is allowed to catch 2,026 dolphins throughout the season.
The majority of the animals are stabbed to death for their meat; a few are sold to aquariums and marine parks outside of Japan. The creation of the new park will mean that some dolphins will find themselves penned up not far from the waters they once swam freely in.
Conservationists have been swift to condemn Taiji’s new plan to exploit dolphins and other marine mammals. As Nanami Kurasawa, the secretary-general of the Tokyo-based conservationist organization Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network (IKAN), says,
“The whole plan is based on the concept that they can exploit dolphins and whales freely as their resource, but the mammals don’t belong to Taiji.
“Marine mammals migrate across oceans, and internationally public opinion is that wildlife should be allowed to live as they are. The plan will only ignite more protests over dolphin-hunting.”
Arguing that Taiji would attract more visits by other means such as exhibiting its historic whale hunting ships, Kurasawa predicts — rightfully — that even more protests will follow the creation of the marine park.
Cans of whale meat can already be purchased at the Taiji Museum and hotels in the town have a tradition of serving whale meat. Taiji’s proposal to create a town-wide marine park suggests that officials are planning to make such “amenities” available on a much, much larger scale. Is it not simply immoral to use the very marine mammals as entertainment (and as a menu item) to sustain the hunt that leads to the bloody death of so many of their species?
As always, it’s important to remember that this is not a practice that is condoned by everyone in Japan, just as certain animal rights abuses and exploitation happening in the rest of the world are not supported by all their citizens. People in Japan as well as in the international community are fighting to stop this terrible practice, just like you, our Care2 readers.
For all of these reasons, sign the petition to oppose the opening of a marine park in Taiji.
Photo via Thinkstock
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