Monday, January 2, 2012

425 Dolphins Taken In Taiji Japan by Elizabeth Batt

Although the start of the dolphin drive season in Taiji, Japan was delayed by Typhoon Talas, midway through the season 425 dolphins have been driven into the cove.

Six species of dolphin have been affected since the dolphin drives commenced on September 01 in what has been a tense time for both fishermen and activists on the ground in Taiji. Despite the slow start to the season which echoed throughout the month of September, by November and December, the dolphins received little respite. 

When fishermen berthed their boats for the holiday season on Dec. 22, 425 dolphins had been herded into the cove. Of these, reports, "354 were killed, 38 were released, 28 were live-capture and five have an unknown status." It is a fraction of the 2,165 dolphin quota set for the 2011/12 season by the Taiji Fishery Union (FU), yet activists mourn every loss. The total quota of dolphins granted to fishermen when divided by species includes some 652 bottlenose; 450 striped; 400 spotted; 275 Risso's, 184 long-finned pilot whales, 134 Pacific white-sided dolphins and 70 false killer whales.
For those unfamiliar with the Taiji dolphin drive season which takes place annually between September and March, it revolves around a small group of fishermen who operate under the umbrella of the FU in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan. Weather allowing, up to 12 drive boats leave the harbor each day in search of dolphin pods. These drive boats, called banger boats by activists, are speedy vessels specifically designed to outmatch a dolphin's speed.

When boats locate a pod, metal poles are lowered into the water and hit repeatedly. The metallic clanging interferes with the dolphin's sonar, confusing them. Now disorientated, the dolphins are easily driven towards the harbor and into the cove. The fishermen are further aided in their quest by the topography of the seafloor which creates a natural funnel that helps herd the mammals towards shore. 
Once the dolphins are inside the cove, the entrance to the ocean is sealed off with nets, making escape impossible. A few dolphins may be selected for sale to captive marine mammal facilties around the world but the majority are slaughtered for meat. Dolphin meat has been described by one conservation group in Japan as little more than toxic waste. Yet despite being laden with mercury and other pollutants, the meat is sold in Japanese supermarkets. 

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