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Driven By Demand - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

Driven By Demand - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

10The hunts

10The hunts todayJapanese fishermen have conducted drive huntssince the 15th Century. Reductions in dolphinabundance, the introduction of quotas and widerpolitical and economic factors have all influencedthe hunts, which initially operated over a widegeographic range and involved a large number ofhunting teams. 10 By the mid-1900s, there werefewer fishing cooperatives still hunting dolphinsbut these surviving hunts expanded during WorldWar II and the post-war period, likely as a resultof fishing operations moving closer to shoreduring wartime and post-war food shortages. Thisexpansion was, however, followed by a decline inthe number of drive hunt teams and a change inthe species targeted. 11In recent years, the use of radios, mobile phonesand faster boats has enabled the surviving huntingteams to become even more efficient in theirhunting efforts. This has resulted in an overexploitationof the populations targeted and,ultimately, a decline in annual catches. In 1982, theIWC expressed severe concerns about theoverexploitation of the Japanese coastal populationof striped dolphins, the main species targeted. 12Later, in 1992, the IWC's Scientific Committee“strongly advised” that the Government of Japanimplement an “interim halt in all direct catches ofstriped dolphins.” 13 As populations have declined andstriped dolphin catches plummeted, the huntershave successfully expanded their hunts to includeother species, including bottlenose dolphins, spotteddolphins, Risso's dolphins and false killer whales. 14Currently, drive hunts are conducted at Futo, inShizuoka Prefecture and Taiji, in WakayamaPrefecture, (see map). The hunting season in FutoPhoto: Michelle Grady/WDCS. Taiji harbour and the buildings usedfor slaughter.runs from September 1 to March 31 of thefollowing year. The hunt in Taiji runs fromOctober 1 to April 30 of the following year,although only pilot whales are targeted afterFebruary. 15 It should be noted that althoughspecies-specific catch quotas are issued for thesehunts, there was little monitoring or enforcementof these quotas by the national Fisheries Agencywhich sets the quotas or the regional prefecturesthat permit the hunts to be carried out, untilprotests by non-governmental environmentalorganizations against the hunts. 16 In 2002, amonitoring and penalty system was officiallyintroduced to drive fishermen in Futo but it doesnot involve independent observers. 17Furthermore, there are no restrictions on thekilling methods that are used in these hunts. 18Japan's Fisheries Agency only advises fishermen toreduce the time to death of the animals by cuttingthe spinal cord instead of the throat. 19Map: Futo and Taiji are the only Japanese towns currentlyhunting dolphins using drive hunts. Until relatively recently,Katsumoto also carried out drive hunts for dolphins.Pacific OceanKatsumoto, Nagasaki PrefectureFuto, Shizuoka PrefectureTaiji, Wakayama Prefecture

11The hunts todayShizuoka PrefectureDrive hunts began in Shizuoka Prefecture in the17th Century, mainly off the coast of the IzuPeninsula. 20 After World War II, five towns in thisPrefecture still conducted drive hunts, almostexclusively for striped dolphins. In the 1950s,declines in striped dolphins were first witnessedand, as a result, a licensing system wasimplemented that restricted the number ofhunting teams and limited the hunting season toSeptember to March. 21 By the late 1960s, onlytwo locations in Shizuoka Prefecture (Kawana andFuto) were permitted to drive and land dolphins.Kawana conducted its final drive in 1983, leavingFuto as the only town in the Prefectureconducting drive hunts in its coastal waters. 22 Inspite of increased regulation of the drive hunts, itwas not until 1993 that the first catch limits wereimposed. 23Shizuoka Prefecture operates under a quota of600 dolphins a year, consisting of 455 spotteddolphins, 75 bottlenose dolphins and 70 stripeddolphins. 24 In spite of this, Futo suspended drivehunting after 1999, perhaps as a result of thedecline of the industry. However, evidently inresponse to persistent demands from theaquarium industry 25 , Futo conducted its first drivehunt in five years on November 11, 2004, drivingover 100 bottlenose dolphins into Futo harbour. 26Fourteen dolphins were selected by six differentaquaria and five were slaughtered and used for“research” purposes and human consumption. Atleast four other dolphins died of suffocation orshock, and the surviving dolphins were reportedlyreleased, one having been fitted with a radiotransmitter. 27 As many of these dolphins werereleased with serious injuries, their continuedsurvival was severely compromised and reportssuggest that bodies were recovered from theharbour during the night of the release. 28 It isanticipated that future hunts will occur in Futowith the aim of supplying dolphins for theaquarium industry. A November 2004 article inthe Izu Shimbun newspaper quoted the managerof the Futo Branch of the Ito City FishingCooperative as saying: “I'm glad we were able tohave the hunt. I think it was a good experience forthe fishermen… This year isn't the end, so I'd like tothink about the future.” 29 The revitalization of theFuto hunt to meet the demands of the aquariumindustry is an unfortunate turnaround for a townthat was becoming better known for its dolphinwatching opportunities than its hunting.Wakayama PrefectureDrive hunts in Wakayama Prefecture did not fullybegin until 1969, with the driving of short-finnedpilot whales at Taiji. The hunt expanded in 1973 toinclude striped dolphins. Following declines instriped dolphins in the 1980s, Taiji fishermenturned their attention to other species such asbottlenose, spotted and Risso´s dolphins. 30 In1993, a limited season (October to April) wasimposed on Taiji's drive hunts, with an annualcatch quota of 2,380 animals. This includes 450striped dolphins, 890 bottlenose dolphins, 400spotted dolphins, 300 Risso's dolphins, 300 shortfinnedpilot whales and 40 false killer whales. 31 InTaiji's 2003-2004 drive hunt season, 1,165 dolphinswere killed and 78 captured alive for the aquariumtrade. 32 In 2000, 2,009 dolphins were killed and 68were captured alive; in 2001, 1,191 dolphins werekilled and 28 were captured alive; and, in 2002,1,935 dolphins were killed and 73 were capturedalive. 33 In spite of concerns raised about thepossible impact on the populations targeted 34 , theoverall numbers taken remain high, with increasingnumbers of animals taken alive.Nagasaki PrefectureUntil relatively recently, drive hunts were alsocarried out in the village of Katsumoto, Iki Island,Nagasaki Prefecture, starting in 1910. Between1976 and 1982, 4,141 bottlenose dolphins, 466Pacific white-sided dolphins, 953 false killerwhales and 525 Risso's dolphins were killed. 35 Therelease of video footage of the Iki Island hunts inthe 1980s resulted in an international outcry overthe killings. Whether this had an impact onbringing about an end to the hunts is difficult toassess, although environmentalist and broadcasterHardy Jones, who has been documenting thehunts for several decades, believes publicbroadcast of them brought about an end to the IkiIsland hunts. 36 Katsumoto residents report achange in attitude away from the dolphins aspests as the primary factor in ending the hunts. 37Large catches at Katsumoto ceased around 1986,although the town maintained an annual quota of50 until 1995 38 and investigations by a Japanesenon-governmental organization, the Elsa NatureConservancy, revealed that 20 dolphins werecaptured alive in 1996. 39 No drive has beenrecorded or reported since then. However,recent interviews with fisheries cooperativeofficials in Katsumoto indicate interest in resumingthe drive hunts in order to capture live dolphinsfor the aquarium industry. 40

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