Bottlenose dolphins await their fate in Taiji cove

Posted Dec 21, 2011 by Elizabeth Batt
Dolphin activists are sending out direct appeals to Japan and Japanese embassies, begging Taiji to spare a pod of bottlenose dolphins driven into the cove last night.
Heather Hill, a cove monitor for Save Japan Dolphins, is issuing a plea asking fellow dolphin activists to man the phones to help secure the release of a pod of dolphins driven into the cove in Taiji, Japan. Hill, who is currently on location in the small Japanese town, has been monitoring the pod of around 22 bottlenose dolphins around the clock since they were first captured yesterday evening. Hill said that among the pod is "one baby for sure, probably born sometime this spring or summer." Activists are hoping that polite calls to the Taiji Fishermen's Union (FU) or Japanese embassies around the world, will soften the hearts of the FU and secure the release of the captive dolphins.
Taiji is currently midway through its annual dolphin drive season. The dolphin drives, first filmed in the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove (2009), run for six months of the year from September through March. According to, so far this season "a total of 397 dolphins from six different species have been driven into the cove." Of those captured, 336 were slaughtered, 38 were released and 18 of them were taken as live-captures. Taiji has permits to capture and kill around 2,100 dolphins until March, including over 600 bottlenose dolphins.
The pod currently contained in the cove is only the second pod of bottlenose driven in this year. At the beginning of the season, one other pod was driven into the cove where one mammal was taken captive and the remainder were released. Activists are hoping that this pod too, will get a chance to return to the ocean. Hill remarks that the FU "rarely keep the dolphins overnight like this." Usually when a pod is driven is, dolphins are earmarked for local captivity and removed to nearby sea pens; the remainder are then slaughtered almost immediately. Hill suggests that in leaving the pod overnight, the fishermen are effectively losing an entire day of driving which could "indicate that trainers from outside of Taiji," will be coming today as well. "This is not just a localized issue," Hill adds.
Bottlenose dolphins are the preferred species for most captive marine mammal entertainment parks and swim-with-the-dolphin programs. The Taiji FU can earn several thousand dollars or more, for just one mammal. In the past says Elsa Nature Conservancy, dolphins have been sold and shipped to several different countries including, China, Iran, Turkey, the Ukraine and Egypt. Taiji also supplies dolphins locally to the Hotel Dolphin Resort and Taiji Whale museum. From past experience, Hill knows that the pod currently netted off in the cove, will conceivably face either captivity or death. Once buyers have selected the prize specimens, the remaining dolphins will likely be slaughtered later today.
With Taiji fishermen about to break for the Christmas holiday, dolphin lovers hope that with the public's help, the Taiji FU might grant them the best of presents and free the dolphins currently contained in the cove. Hill is urging animal lovers to take a few minutes and call their nearest Japanese embassy as soon as possible and 'politely' ask for the pod's release. The primary number for the Japanese Embassy in the United States is (202) 238-6700; in the UK, call (020) 7465 6500 for the Japanese Embassy in London. Alternatively, the public can directly call the Taiji Fishermen's Union at (011 in the US; 001 in the UK), then 81-73-559-2340 to respectfully request that the dolphins be returned to the ocean.
Heather Hill of Save Japan Dolphins has now reported an estimated 10 bottlenose dolphins were kept for captivity, the remainder, despite appeals, have been slaughtered. Hill also says that the initial numbers thought to have been captured have been updated: 10 dolphins were taken into captivity and 23 were slaughtered.