A dolphin drive hunt in Taiji, Japan ended yesterday. The hunt began on Friday, when fishermen drove over 250 dolphins into a cove to capture and kill them. The dolphins, which came from five different pods, remained trapped in the cove without food for four days.
The activist organization Sea Shepherd documented the hunt, although the fishermen hid some of their activities behind tarps. Sea Shepherd reports that 52 dolphins were captured alive for sale to amusement parks around the world and 41 dolphins were killed for meat. The remaining members of the pods were driven back out to sea on Tuesday.
The fishermen and local government say this method of hunting is legal and part of a longstanding cultural tradition. Yoshinobu Nisaka, the governor of Wakayama prefecture where Taiji is located, told Kyodo news "Dietary culture varies and it is the wisdom of civilization to mutually respect other standpoints unless the world faces a lack of resources." Dolphins are not an endangered species.
The annual Taiji hunt gained attention after the 2009 documentary "The Cove." International protests pressured Japan to end the annual hunt. Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, made a statement on Twitter:
Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG opposes drive hunt fisheries.— キャロライン・ケネディ駐日米国大使 (@CarolineKennedy) January 18, 2014
Once the dolphins have been driven into the shallow waters of the cove, fishermen tie their tails to prevent them from escaping. "A metal rod was stabbed into their spinal cord, where they were left to bleed out, suffocate and die," activist Melissa Sehgal told Reuters. Sea Shepherd reports that the fishermen's self-imposed quota leads them to kill the largest adults, orphaning some juvenile and baby dolphins.
A rare white dolphin was among the the animals taken captive. Ric O’ Barry of the Dolphin Project told The Dodo that the mother of the albino whale committed suicide after the hunters captured her calf. He explains that under extreme stress, dolphins may choose to not surface for breath and allow themselves to drown. The calf has been taken to the Taiji Whale Museum.