Sea Shepherd believes the hunters have been dumping the bodies of slaughtered Risso’s calves and juveniles to avoid including them in the annual Risso’s quota, which was exceeded last season.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has documented the body of a juvenile Risso’s dolphin who washed ashore on the rocks in Taiji, Japan on Tuesday (Japan time), believed to have been slaughtered alongside its family pod and dumped at sea by the Taiji hunters so its tiny body would not be counted against the killers’ annual quota of Risso’s, which was exceeded last year.
Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers stationed on the ground in Taiji believe that this young dolphin was among a pod of 18-20 Risso’s dolphins driven into Taiji’s infamous cove and slaughtered on Oct. 19 (Japan time). Since the 2015-2016 drive hunt season began on Sept. 1, the only species of cetacean slaughtered to date has been Risso’s, with a total of approximately 73-76 dolphins killed. On multiple days Sea Shepherd has documented the hunters leaving the cove in skiffs following a slaughter, with tarps draped across the vessels, hiding what appears to be the small bodies of juvenile Risso’s dolphins.
Sea Shepherd believes that the hunters are dumping the bodies of these dolphins, who swam wild and free before being driven to the deadly shores of Taiji, in order to keep them from counting toward their annual Risso’s quota. Since Risso’s are typically killed for human consumption by the hunters and not taken captive, the hunters likely do not want the smallest members of these pods to count toward their quota, as they would not produce much meat. Last season, the Risso’s quota was exceeded, and this year’s quota of 256 Risso’s may very well be exceeded too as the season continues until March 2016.
“The dolphin killers may be dumping these young Risso’s at sea to manipulate their kill numbers, but Sea Shepherd – and thousands of our Cove Guardian supporters around the world who have been following our updates from Taiji – know the truth that is hidden under the tarps. These dolphins were slaughtered, just like their families, and should be counted in this season’s death toll,” said Sea Shepherd Campaign Coordinator, David Hance.
“The ocean knows no quotas. Whether the number reported by the Taiji Fisherman’s Union reflects the true number of dolphins killed or not, the same number of cetacean families – entire bloodlines at a time – have been stolen from the sea, from the marine eco-systems that support all life on Earth. Taiji’s dolphin massacre is unsustainable as well as unspeakably cruel,” added Hance.
Along with concerns over the impact of Taiji’s hunt on Risso’s numbers, Sea Shepherd is also concerned that the reason other species have not been found by the hunters is because the populations of other cetacean species may be declining in Japanese waters due to the yearly killings. Bottlenose is the only other species of dolphin that has been driven into the cove thus far this season. Located by the hunters on Sept. 19 (Japan time) and held overnight in the cove without food or shelter, a large pod of bottlenose dolphins faced two days of brutal and violent captive selection. 50 members of the pod were stolen from the sea to be sold for captivity, while 28-30 dolphins were driven back out to sea. These were mostly juveniles who have little to no chance of survival without the protection of their mothers or pod.
Along with monitoring and live streaming of the drive hunt, captures and slaughters, Sea Shepherd’s 2015-2016 Operation Henkaku campaign, the organization’s sixth consecutive season of its Taiji Dolphin Defense Campaign, features an increased focus on raising awareness of the inextricable link between the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji and the international captive cetacean industry. Sea Shepherd believes that the drive hunt could not be sustained by the sale of dolphin meat for human consumption, as demand for dolphin and whale meat has sunk to an all-time low. One slaughtered dolphin produces approximately $600 USD worth of meat – but one trained captive dolphin can be sold by the hunters for as much as $250,000 USD.
“The death of the young Risso’s dolphin who washed ashore is a barbaric by-product of the captive industry, just like the deaths of all other dolphins who have fallen victim to Taiji’s killers. The highly lucrative trade in live dolphins for captivity is the economic fuel that not only drives Taiji’s hunting boats, it drives dolphins straight to their deaths in the cove,” said Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Founder and Senior Strategic Advisor for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. “Until there is no longer a demand for captive dolphins and whales around the world or until the world steps up and demands an end to the brutal hunts from the government of Japan, cetaceans will continue to die in Taiji.”
For six months of each year, from Sept. 1 until March, entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales are driven into the cove. Banger poles are struck against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. The members of these frightened pods will face either imprisonment in captivity or brutal slaughter before the eyes of their families. Killers and trainers work side-by-side to select the “prettiest” dolphins and whales for captivity, those without visible scars. The others are mercilessly stabbed with a metal spike inserted into their backs, just behind the blowhole, to sever their spine. The dolphins slowly and painfully bleed to death or drown in the blood of their family members – others may die slowly as they are tethered and dragged to the butcherhouse, where the once living and free cetaceans are butchered and processed into meat. These inhumane killings are a blemish upon Japan, whose government refuses to sign on to many protection efforts and regulations for marine mammals, despite most of the world recognizing the need to protect these highly intelligent, self-aware and beloved animals.
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