During October 1996 fisherman and others chased into Futo Fishing Port, on
Shizuoka Prefecture's Izu Peninsula, over 200 bottle-nosed dolphins, a number
over three times the allotted quota, and about 50 false killer whales, for
which there was no quota at all, and began selling them to aquariums, in
addition to slaughtering and butchering for sale as meat. Protests by
citizens' organizations led to the release of captured dolphins in the port
that exceeded the quota, as well as the return to the ocean of six false killer
whales that had already been taken to aquariums.
Dolphin drive begins by locating a school of dolphins out at sea. Once a
school is located, fishing boats emit loud noises into the water, which
confuses the echolocation ability of the dolphins and throws them into a panic.
Boats and nets are used to cut the dolphins off from their escape route, and to
herd them slowly toward the narrow recess of a fishing port. The port's
entrance is walled off with a net, thereby impounding the dolphins inside.
The dolphin capture at Futo used this method, which has been practices along
the Izu Peninsula for centuries. It is now used only at Futo, however, owing
to too few people to continue it, and because the operation is unprofitable.
Once impounded within a port, the dolphins are again confused with loud sounds,
and moved with boats and nets in groups of 30-odd animals to a pier near shore
that is suitable for landing them, while gradually making the enclosure
smaller. After the dolphins have nowhere to flee, their captors punch sharp
fireman's hooks into the animals' bodies to draw them near the boats, and then
tie ropes to their tails. A crane lifts the dolphins out of the water
tail-first to land them, loading them several to a vehicle in trucks waiting at
the pier. Trucks take the dolphins to a nearby slaughterhouse to be killed and
As the dolphins are living as they are landed and taken to the slaughterhouse,
butchering there also proceeds while they are still alive, and begins by
slitting their throats with a kitchen knife, or a blade on a long handle that
looks like a halberd, after which the dolphins writhe violently in a pool of
their own blood and die while making wailing noises. Although some dolphins
die instantly, a Taiji fisherman said, "When their bellies are cut open, some
dolphins let out a human like scream, and researchers are not allowed to record
those screams" (statement from a February 1997 interview).
In Japan this drive fishery is now conducted mainly off the Izu Peninsula, and
off the Kii Peninsula of Wakayama Prefecture. In the past many blue white
dolphins were captured, with the drive fishery catch in 1975 said to have been
20,000, but now the fisherman take many bottle-nosed dolphins.
||When the captured dolphins are to be processed into meat, they are apparently
killed and butchered immediately, but on this occasion the herd of dolphins
driven into the port on October 17 was kept as is until the 21st because some
would be taken to aquariums. The dolphins were not fed during this period,
apparently because aquariums requested withholding food to make them easier to
handle. On this occasion the dolphins were taken to aquariums using the
||To begin with, two fishing boats confused the dolphins with sounds, then
rounded up the dolphins, which were scattered throughout the port. These two
vessels had metal bars protruding from their hulls into the water, and
fishermen banged on them constantly with hammers as other fisherman beat on the
sides of their vessels with wooden mallets, and still other slapped the water
over and over with long poles, thereby terrorizing the dolphins and chasing
them around. Then, just as when landing dolphins for slaughterm three fishing
boats spread fishing nets from one vessel to the next to cut off the dolphins'
escape route and inexorably herd them toward the wall at pierside.
||The 30-odd dolphins separated out in this manner are then sorted according to
what the aquariums want. A person from an aquarium, who appears to be a
leader, stands at the top of the wall pointing at dolphins saying, "This one,"
and "That one," as about 10 aquarium divers subdue the indicated dolphins and
measure their length with a long bar. It appears they are after animals about
150-200 cm long, and do not want any over 250 cm. One or two of the divers
restraining the dolphin then dive under the animals and inspect the underbelly
slit to see if it is a male or a female. Almost all aquariums prefer females,
and, as far as records indicate, only one male has ever been taken to an
aquarium. Even if all other requirements were fulfilled, no dolphins with
injuries were chosen. In addition to being panicked by the loud noises and
chased by divers, the dolphins get caught in nets, run into the wall, and
collide violently with other dolphins, so many of them injuries. For this
reason it took considerable time to select dolphins that satisfied the
||Divers hold the chosen dolphins at their sides and lift them onto a special
dolphin stretcher, which has holes for dolphins' pectoral fins, that is lowered
to water level by a crane. Once a dolphin is properly ensconced, the crane
lifts it onto a truck that the aquariums have waiting on the pier. Aquarium
personnel immediately remove the stretcher, and move on to the next
||When dolphins are taken to nearby aquariums, their transport involves placing
them on wet mattresses, covering the upper parts of their bodies with cloth,
and occasionally wetting them, but when destinations are far, dolphins are put
in long tanks to keep their bodies immersed. In all cases sedatives are
administered to keep the dolphins from struggling. On this occasion the
sedative caused the shock death of one female; her belly was subsequently cut
open, and the meat extracted and processed.
||While dolphins were being taken out of Futo Port to aquariums, and while they
were being landed for slaughter and butchering, over 100 children from the
local Kawana Elementary School, Futo Elementary School, Futo Nursery School,
and other institutions came to watch over the course of two days. Elementary
school pupils took off from class as part of their social studies. The
children watched from a slight distance so as not to get in the way, but as
they watched their teachers offered no explanation or other guidance to the
children. In particular, there were no teachers in the immediate presence of
school children watching from the opposite bank. The children were simply
watching excitedly and making noise as the enclosed dolphins were cornered by
divers and fled about trying to escape their inevitable capture. Children were
walking around saying things like, "They got one!" "It's a chase!" "I want to
do it!" and "Let's eat them in our school lunches."
Some children just sat and watched quietly. I asked some of these fourth
graders from Kawana Elementary School what they thought of the dolphin capture.
While almost all the children looked down in silence or fled to avoid answering
my questions, two children said, "The poor dolphins," and "I feel very sorry
Some of the children's fathers were probably fishermen. Because the drive
fishery would be their fathers' job, they were watching their own fathers at
work. I felt doublts about whether such education could substitute for
classes, as there was no explanation at all about eigher dolphins or their
capture for consumption. My impression was that people came to see the dolphin
capture in a picnic mood just because a lot more dolphins than usual would be
taken. After returning to their classrooms, did pupils and teachers have an
opportunity to talk about things like what kind of animals dolphins are, how
are dolphins captured, why are they taken, and what did the children think and
feel as they watched?
Still I think it is natural for people to feel sorry for dolphins when seeing
them surrounded by nets and cut off from escape, making wailing noises audible
to humans, sustaining injuries, and succumbing to panic and drowning, as well
as when seeing the sea turn gradually red with blood. It is vitally important
for people to learn how to be moved by something beautiful, or feel sosrry for
something pitiable. Such feelings are the basis for thinking about the
preciousness of life, and about how we should live, as we humans cannot exist
without sacrificing the lives of other living things. Fourth-graders are quite
capable of thinking about what it means to be a wild animal or to be human.
The local teachers should at least educate their pupils so that the suffering
and death of the dolphins is not wasted.
If pupils are merely shown the dolphin capture, it could adversely influence
them instead of being educational. Proper education about the nature of life
is necessary for children who frolic while watching dolphins being killed one
after another in appalling circumstances, and without feeling a thing. Unless
such education is provided, watching dolphins being taken could give them the
idea that it's all right for humans to do anything to animals, and if an animal
is to be eaten, cruel treatment doesn't matter. Setting aside the question of
whether dolphins are captured or not, children should be raised and educated to
seriously consider the present practice of dolphin captures and to think about
it intellectually and emotionally.
||Close Collaboration among Aquariums for Cetacean Capture: A Characteristic of this Capture
Ten aquariums in Shizuoka Prefecture and nearby prefectures were involved in
this capture, but only six of those facilities actually received dolphins; four
of the 10 went to Futo for the sole purpose of helping, a fact that illustrates
well the solidarity among aquariums in capturing cetaceans. In this operation
six aquariums took a total of 26 bottle-nosed dolphins, while two facilities
obtained a total of six false killer whales. Shimoda Kaichu Aquarium and Izu
Mito Sea Paradise obtained both species.
The order in which aquariums chose dolphins on this occasion was apparently
decided by drawing lots, while the selecting and moving of dolphins wee done
individually for each aquarium. In other words, once the procedure was
finished for one aquarium, the dolphins that remained in the enclosure of
fishing boats and nets were released into the harbor, after which 30-odd
dolphins were again rounded up from among the whole group using loud noises,
boats, and nets, which was repeated for each facility.
As mentioned before, the surrounded dolphins were of course in a state of
panic, and gradually sustain more injuries in their quest for an escape route
because they crash themselves into boat hulls and the wall, become entangled in
nets, and scrape their underbellies on the rocky bottom in shallows. Dolphins
also collide forcefully with one another as they flee about. The water
therefore gradually becomes red with the blood of dolphins.
Because many aquariums were involved, and because they all wanted uninjured
females from 1.5 to 2 meters in length, those appearing to be the best were
chased around the harbor many times. Owing to this repeated chasing and
surrounding with nets, as well as the panic it caused, many dolphins were
exhausted and sank to the harbor bottom.
this method of obtaining dolphins shows clearly that the dolphins taken to
aquariums first experienced several days of starvation and fear in the port,
were terrorized nearly to death by the capture and sorting procedure, suffered
panic, and were in the end separated from their parents and group. According
to information obtained as of November 23, 1996, three of the 26 dolphins taken
to the aquariums had already died, and a number of them were in weakened
condition. Newer information might reveal further mortality and/or ill
||A Historical Incident: First of Its Kind in Japan
On October 23, 1996 the Futo Fishing Cooperative removed the net blocking the
harbor entrance and released more than 100 dolphins still confined, which were
over the catch quota. Further, on October 30 the two aquariums that had bought
the false killer whales returned their total of six to the ocean at Futo,
although there were considerable problems with the way it was done.
Nevertheless, no matter what the course of events leading to the return, and
the way it was done, the release of the captured dolphins by fishermen who
themselves removed the nets, and the return of false killer whales that had
once been taken to aquariums, are the first such occurrences in Japan. *
What is more, the protest movement against the dolphin capture was the first of
its kind in Japan. Until this incident, distinct protest actions against
dolphin drive fisheries in Japan were those of foreign activists who would, for
example, cut fishing port nets to release dolphins into the sea. In this case,
however, it was Japanese citizens' groups, divers, and ordinary people who took
the lead in conducting protest activities. As a consequence, the very fishing
industry people who had captured the dolphins released them, and the aquarium
people themselves returned the false killer whales to the sea. This is a very
significant aspect of this incident.
*A similar incident occurred at Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, on April 7,
1985. Released on this occasion was a Risso's dolphin that had become
entangled in a net offshore of Nanazuru near Yokohama, and its liberators were
fish brokers. Just before it was to be auctioned off at the Odawara fish
market, a Mr. Takaaki Furukawa came up with an idea which led to donations
collected from among brokers, and then to the dolphin's release. Apparently it
was purchased at a very cheap price through the kindness of the shipper
(company president Takase), who had apparently saved dolphins and whales twice
||The news of the dolphin drive fishery at Futo made its way around the
world in a few days. As a result the Elsa Nature Conservancy, which conducts
a broad movement for protecting the environment and animals, received many
inquiries and offers of help from abroad. Considering the worldwide spread of
the idea that we should transcend national borders in protecting marine mammals
as a world asset because they live the world's interconnected oceans, there is
nothing at all strange about the protest and help offers from abroad in
response to a quota violating incident at a fishing port in Japan.
In this instance, however, the policy adopted by the groups forming the nucleus
of the protest, including Elsa, was that Japanese organizations would take the
lead in these protest activities. This was because they wanted everyone in
Japan to see this as a Japanese issue that was close to Japanese people. At
the same time, there was concern that if the protesters immediately sought
support from abroad, opponents would claim it was an instance of
For this reason the Japanese activist community adopted a policy under which,
while expressing gratitude for offers of help from abroad, it asked foreign
groups to hold protest telephone calls and faxes until the domestic protest
movement had started running smoothly. While taking part in the protest
movement in Japan, Elsa sent letters to supporting organizations abroad to
explain this policy and ask for their understanding. When the protest in Japan
actually got under way, it was possible to ask for support and gain strong
cooperation from abroad.
||As noted above, the single objective of this protest was to rectify a
violation. This was because the activist community feared it would delay the
release of the dolphins--the protest's urgent objective--if the capture were to
be turned into arguments about dolphin culinary culture or the right or wrong
of dolphin capture, which are often the subject of debate. This led not only
to achieving this urgent objective, but also made many people sense doubts
about the very capture of dolphins and the way aquariums are presently run, as
well as the consumption of whale meat, which is generally written off as a
matter of culinary culture. Thus, the dolphin drive fishery at Futo Port
served to pose a number of problems, and at the same time change the
perceptions of many people. These days, as ideas like "keeping wild animals
wild" and "protecting cetaceans as world assets" continue to gain currency
around the world, one accomplishment of the protest was that this incident
triggered a reassessment of the relationship between humans and cetaceans,
including dolphins, orcas, and whales, and brought about efforts to look for
ways to coexist.
||The Reality of Aquariums, and the Connection with Drive Fishery Capture
This incident illustrated the relationship between aquariums and drive
fisheries. While aquariums claim to be educational facilities, they capture
dolphins and whales in ways that totally run counter to those animals' ecology,
thereby helping to destroy their herds and attesting criticism from many
people. It showed that although aquariums sing the praises of dolphin
protection, in order to select and obtain dolphins that satisfy their shopping
lists, they chase them around ruthlessly, thereby sacrificing the lives of many
other dolphins and increasing the dolphins' suffering.
We also discovered that several of the dolphins obtained in this drive fishery
were to be sent to China. Under the cover of claims about education and
protection, the aquariums are actually engaged in the commercial activity of
capturing and selling wild animals. The true protection of wild animals
requires that as many people as possible be informed of what aquariums are
really up to.
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