Commentary by Cove Guardian Erwin Vermeulen

One dolphin, who got stuck between the rocks and the net, panicked and trashed his or her body onto the rocks.One dolphin, who got stuck between the rocks and the net, panicked and trashed his or her body onto the rocks.
Photo: Sea Shepherd
The first drive of Striped dolphins in Taiji this season took place on November 23. After the terrorizing drive towards the harbor, the animals got entangled in the nets and were run over by the skiffs. One dolphin, who got stuck between the rocks and the net, panicked and trashed his or her body onto the rocks. Blood poured out, turning the Cove red once again. One animal was selected for a life of slavery in captivity, while the other 40-45 were butchered.

A common argument from slaughter apologists ignoring the immense suffering endured by dolphins killed in Taiji, is that these dolphins are not endangered. That might be true for some species on a global scale, but certainly not in Japanese waters. This was confirmed again recently by the ‘Toxic Catch’ report of the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency.

Striped dolphins have been heavily and indiscriminately hunted in Japanese waters in both drive and hand-harpoon hunts. In the Meiji period of the late 19th century, 20 villages held opportunistic drive hunts almost exclusively for Striped dolphins. Quotas were not introduced until 1993. Between 1963 and 1992, at least 159,500 Striped dolphins were killed.

The Japanese Fisheries Agency stated in 1993 that it was reasonable to assume that the numbers of Striped dolphins had declined to less than 10% of the numbers of 1950. The IWC Scientific Commission came to that same conclusion a year earlier, and strongly urged Japan in 1992 and again in 1993, to halt the killing of these dolphins who were vanishing from Japan’s waters. It is a Japanese fisheries tradition to do absolutely nothing with warnings, conclusions and urgings of this nature.

The hunts in Futo and Kawana on the Izu Coast, Shizuoka Prefecture, may have led to the complete eradication of the ‘local’ Striped dolphin population. In the 1960s, 10,000-20,000 dolphins were killed in Futo each year. 1974 was the last time that more than 10,000 were killed, and in 1980 the 5,000 barrier was crossed one final time. Soon the dead could be counted in the hundreds and then in the tens. In ’86, ’87 and ’90 none were caught. Since 1992, not a single Striped dolphin has been found. There has not been a successful hunt of Striped dolphins in Chiba since 1995.

Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, started the hunt for Striped dolphins in 1974 and killed more than 11,000 in 1980. The numbers have dropped drastically since that time. By the 1990s, the Striped dolphin catch figures in Taiji had fallen by 90%. The quota for Striped dolphins in Taiji is 450 and has not changed since quotas were introduced in 1993. The national quota has been 725 since that year, divided in drive hunts in Wakayama and Shizuoka and hand-harpoon hunts in Wakayama and Chiba. The hand-harpoon hunts rarely reach their catch limit. In a 1996 resolution on Striped dolphin hunts, the IWC scientific commission urged Japan to take “appropriate action,” and expressed concern again in 1997 after Taiji exceeded their quota by 22 animals in the 1996/97 season. The next season, Taiji reported exactly 450 Striped dolphins caught. That number is either fabricated to appease the critics or dolphins were driven back out of the bay when the quota was reached. Given the poor survival rate of Striped dolphins in captivity and their susceptibility to stress, many more will have died at sea.

Japan reduced the catch quota in prefectures where no catches were taking place and permitted the Wakayama prefecture in which Taiji is located to exceed their catch limits by allocating to them the quotas for Chiba and Shizuoka. So, where quota reductions had no effect on actual catches, they allowed an increase in slaughter where Striped dolphins could still be found. This kind of backwards logic is typical of the Japanese government when it comes to the destruction of ocean life.

Taiji’s killing and exploitation of Striped dolphins continues:

  • 2000-2007: the hunters caught their exact quota or a number very close to it.
  • 2008: 528 killed and 5 taken into slavery, far over the quota
  • 2009: 321 butchered
  • 2010/11 season: 251 killed and 2 sold to aquariums
  • 2011/12 season: 324 slaughtered and one life captured
  • 2012/13 season: 322 killed and 2 taken for captivity


As we know, Japan’s “fisheries” department is only interested in “science” that fills their freezers. The catch limits are based on over 20-year-old abundance figures, hopelessly out of date. Even if you look past all the suffering, as scientists and government officials in Japan do with no effort at all, and believe in the most prostituted word in the English language: “sustainability,” the current catch limits are more than 5 times higher and the actual catches more than 4 times higher than sustainability calculations would allow for.

A catastrophic decline like this leads to changes in the reproduction cycle of these intelligent, social animals. The average maturing age of females dropped from 9.7 to 7.2 years and the average calving interval decreased from 4.0 to 2.8 years. This is evolution’s desperate attempt to avert the impending and irreversible doom of extinction, but only ending the hunts once and for all can save the Striped dolphins passing through Japanese waters now.

TOXIC CATCH: Japan’s unsustainable and irresponsible whale, dolphin and porpoise hunts
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
The Dolphin Drive Hunt: Appropriate Management?
TOWARDS EXTINCTION the exploitation of small cetaceans in japan


Please speak up and help us to protect Striped dolphins and other species being captured and killed in Taiji from being wiped out. Let’s remind the International Whaling Commission that, for the dolphins, extinction is forever!

Unlike whales, small cetaceans (e.g., dolphins, pilot whales, belugas, and orcas) do not have an international body like the International Whaling Commission to regulate the killing. There are simply no regulations or the regulations are ignored.

Please use the contact information below to ask the IWC to provide long-overdue protections for Striped and other dolphins:

International Whaling Commission:

Tel:  +44 (0) 1223 233 971
Fax: +44 (0) 1223 232 876


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