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Japanese aquariums to stop taking dolphins from annual Taiji hunt

Japanese aquariums to stop taking dolphins from annual Taiji hunt
May 22, 2015

Aquariums in Japan have voted to stop buying live dolphins from the town of Taiji, where the annual slaughter of hundreds of cetaceans has drawn widespread condemnation, after being threatened with expulsion from the world’s leading zoo organisation.

The Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) this week voted to stay part of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), a move that that will effectively end the procurement of Taiji dolphins by aquariums and sea parks in Japan.

Graphic images of slaughtered dolphins in pools of blood attracted worldwide attention when Taiji was featured in the Academy Award-winning 2009 film ‘The Cove’.

Every year, hunters descend on the town in Wakayama Prefecture, where they are licensed to kill nearly 2,000 and dolphins and porpoises from seven different species. Japan defends the practice as being in accordance with local customs.

Most are butchered for their meat, but a "small proportion" are caught for live sales to aquariums worldwide, according to WAZA.

Last month, WAZA suspended the membership of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) for violating its code of ethics on animal welfare.

Swiss-based WAZA said it had worked for years to work collaboratively with JAZA to stop its members from taking dolphins from "Taiji drives fisheries" to no avail.

Having forced JAZA to act with its suspension, WAZA welcomed the Japanese association’s move to ban the taking dolphins from the Taiji hunt and from taking part in their "export and sale.”

A majority of the 89 zoos and 63 aquariums belonging to Jaza voted to remain in the global zoo organisation, Japanese media reported.

In a statement, WAZA said the move was a "welcome breakthrough" that reaffirms its "well-considered approach of working collaboratively with international partners to improve the well-being and conservation of global wildlife."

JAZA represents about 150 zoos and aquariums, including Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, one of the largest in the world.

WAZA represents more than 1,300 zoos and aquariums worldwide.

Australia for Dolphins described the vote as “the beginning of the end of dolphin hunting”, with the Sarah Lucas, the group’s Chief Executive telling The Guardian “we are absolutely delighted to hear Japan’s peak zoo body has voted to uphold international animal welfare standards and stop purchasing Taiji dolphins.”

Lucas added “this momentous decision marks the beginning of the end for dolphin hunting in Japan.

“The capture of live dolphins, which sell for up to $100,000, is the motivation for the brutal dolphin hunts in Taiji. This decision, which stops Japanese aquariums demanding more Taiji dolphins, is a huge blow to the hunts.”

The capture of dolphins is understood to have doubled in the past 10 years. A fully trained dolphin on public display can be worth more than US$100,000, compared with as little as $100 if slaughtered for meat. 



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