Social media activist group 'Save Misty the Dolphin' (SMTD), is urging the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA) and its members, to take a stand against the Taiji dolphin drives.
The move came about after a particularly brutal dolphin drive involving 200-300 bottlenose dolphins that were netted off for almost a week in Taiji's infamous cove.
Originally pushed into the Cove on Dec. 11, the marine mammals were held without access to food for an astonishing six days.
During this time, 101 juveniles and young dolphins were taken for the captive entertainment industry, 23 animals were slaughtered, two died in incidental drownings, and many suffered massive injuries from interaction with both propellers and nets. Around 80 members of the pod were eventually released -- the majority of their young having been stripped away.
The young dolphins will now be absorbed into the captive display industry to be used in shows and swim-with-the dolphins programs. With dolphins selling for thousands of dollars each, Taiji is estimated to have earned well over $3 million for this catch alone.
Courtesy SSCS Cove Guardians
An injured bottlenose dolphin recently netted in Taiji Cove.
Many advocates and cetacean experts believe that if not for captive sales, the dolphin drives could cease altogether. Dolphin meat is cheap and with consumption dropping, the drives would be less profitable to conduct without a market for trained animals.
Animals captured in the Cove are trained and sold to Japanese aquariums or global dolphinariums. Many of the aquariums that purchase these marine mammals have trainers that are members of IMATA.
The International Marine Animal Trainers Association vehemently states that it opposes the Japanese drive fisheries. Yet several of its members are marine park employees who source and train their animals directly from the Taiji drive hunts.
It is this aspect of IMATA that Save Misty the Dolphin (SMTD) has an issue with.
In an open letter to trainer members of IMATA and the organization itself, SMTD said:
Not since this hunt has been monitored have so many juvenile bottlenose dolphins been ripped away from their family and pod: 101 removed, 2 calves drowned and 23 slaughtered under the tarps. This is deplorable and inhumane!
We must act: We are calling on those in the aquarium industry to stop working with Taij dolphins, beginning with the trainers.
Courtesy SSCS Cove Guardians
A dolphin oozes blood during the recent roundup of 200-300 bottlenose dolphins in Taiji, Japan.
SMTD said it is also requesting that IMATA acts "swiftly to issue a statement discouraging its membership from working with any dolphins procured from the dolphin drive hunt in Taiji, Japan. This statement should include, in particular, 101 bottlenose dolphins taken from a drive hunt that occurred on December 12, 2012." (Dec. 11 in the United States).
Martha Brock, an environmental lawyer and an administrator with the SMTD campaign, told Digital Journal:
It's really high time that people expected, no, demanded, the truth from corporations, including both for-profit and non-profit ones in the aquarium industry. IMATA should not be allowed to walk both sides of the drive hunt debate without having it noted. And so we ask, which side is IMATA on?
In its code of ethics, IMATA states that its members must be committed to "Exercising the highest levels of respect and humaneness for all animals." If this is the case SMTD concludes, and "IMATA stands behind its claims to be committed to the conservation and appreciation of dolphins, the organization cannot at the same time accept dolphins from any drive hunt."
Along with the letter addressed to IMATA President Shelley Woods and President-Elect Eric Gaglione, The Save Misty Campaign has enforced their message with an online petition at Change.org.