Memo Reveals Japan Aquarium Industry's Secret Sponsorship of Dolphin Slaughter
An Animal Rights Article from


Earth Island Institute
October 2005

An international consortium of environmental organizations*, fighting to end the world's largest dolphin slaughter in Japan, today released an internal memo prepared by the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums to its member aquariums encouraging the buying of more dolphins from the Taiji drive fishery.

"The aquarium industry is secretly subsidizing the violent slaughter of thousands of dolphins in Taiji and other fishing villages in Japan," stated David Phillips, Director of the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute. "This memo is the first direct proof from the Conference to its member aquariums soliciting buyers for dolphins."

"In a key part of the memo," adds activist Richard O'Barry, former trainer of TV star Flipper and marine mammal specialist for One Voice, a leading French animal welfare organization, "the Conference encourages its member aquariums to request even more dolphins that are currently not available due to permit restrictions."

"Fishermen herd dolphin schools into shallow waters, where around two thousand are annually slaughtered for meat," adds Sakae Hemmi, spokesperson for Elsa Nature Conservancy. "The aquarium industry subsidizes the slaughter by offering thousands of dollars to buy a few prime specimens of dolphins from the shallow waters of the blood-filled slaughter pools. Without these enormous prices for prime specimens, it will be quite difficult for the drive fishery to survive, for dolphin meat is much contaminated with mercury."

The memo was prepared by Senzo Uchida, Executive Secretary of the Japan Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums and sent to the directors of aquariums that are members of the Conference. The memo outlines a meeting held by representatives of the Conference, the Taiji Fishing Cooperative, Taiji town councillors, and the Isana Union, representing the drive fishermen at Taiji. Even the Japanese government was involved, as Mr. Hidehiro Kato of the Japan National Research Institute, a government agency, originally recommended this meeting be held. The memo states in part (English translation):

"...for the purposes of continued cetacean capture and stable supply, it is necessary to have frank expressions of opinion from fishers involved in dolphin drive fisheries and from aquariums needing cetaceans."

"Currently when dolphins are captured in drive fisheries, they are sorted live to select individuals for captivity, after which the rest are all used for meat."

"Pacific striped dolphins cannot be taken in drive fisheries at Taiji because no permits have been granted. However, if the capture of this species at Taiji were to become possible, this would benefit fishers and the aquariums which keep cetaceans...Applying for a permit to capture a new cetacean species at Taiji would require that there is a need.

Accordingly, from the perspective of exhibiting cetaceans for educational purposes, we would like to perform a questionnaire survey to determine the extent to which aquariums participating in the Cetacean Conference want Pacific striped dolphins, and then use the results to justify applying for a permit to capture them at Taiji."

A copy of the original memo in Japanese and an English translation are attached to this press release. David Phillips concluded: "The public, including the people of Japan, would be outraged if they knew the truth -- that thousands of innocent dolphins die a horrible death so that a few can be shown doing tricks in aquariums. The drive fishery and the slaughter must be stopped, and the aquarium industry should be ashamed of sponsoring the killing of thousands of dolphins annually."

* The campaign to stop the dolphin slaughter is a joint project of the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute, and One Voice, a leading French animal protection organization

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