The Japanese town that acquired notoriety after it was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove" that showed scenes of local anglers killing dolphins will soon open a marine park where visitors will be able to swim and play with marine mammals.
According to The Guardian, the Taiji town authorities in the Higashimuro district of Wakayama, are planning a 69-acre "marine safari park." Black whales and bottlenose dolphins caught in the waters near the town would be released into the park. Herald Sun reports local government authorities also plan to study whether it would be possible to raise large whales there.
According to The Sydney Herald, which describes the news as sounding like a "sick joke," the town of Taiji on the country's Pacific Coast of Japan is planning a "SeaWorld-style" tourist attraction where bottlenose dolphins, small whales and other sea creatures will be housed. According to the mayor of Taiji, Kazutaka Sangen, "We want to send out the message that the town is living together with whales."
Herald Sun reports town authorities intend to use a section of the entire cove where the annual culling takes place for the marine mammal park. According to the Herald Sun, an area of the cove will be sectioned off by a net at the entrance to the Moriura Bay in northwestern Taiji.
The Guardian reports the town has been the target of international criticism in the last decade because of marine mammal hunting activities in which up to 2,000 marine animals are killed for meat or sold to aquariums and parks. The trade in the meat of marine mammals is lucrative with a single animal fetching up to 50,000 yen ($390), and aquariums have been known to pay up to 10 million yen for certain types.
The pressure on Taiji to end the annual cull increased after release of the movie The Cove. The Telegraph reports the Oscar-winning film followed US activists' attempts to infiltrate the cove and helped bring the annual culling to international attention. According to The Guardian, the movie was made after the crew of the film directed by Louie Psihoyos, broke into the fenced-off bay and installed hidden cameras to capture footage of the hunt.
While The Cove drew international praise for exposing the brutal reality of Taiji's dolphin hunt, local fishermen and officials said the movie was biased and ignored the historical and cultural significance of the industry to the town. The Guardian reports the film made its debut in Japan at the 2011 Tokyo international film festival but several cinemas in Japan decided not to show it after threats from ultra-nationalist groups. The producers of the film, however, sent Japanese language copies to every household in Taiji, The Guardian reports.
Taiji is only one of about four Japanese towns where hunting of small marine cetaceans is carried out, but Taiji has attracted special attention due partly to the methods used in hunting the animals. According to The Guardian, the hunters first confuse the animals by banging metal poles against boats and herd the animals into the cove where they are killed with spears and knives.