U.S. ambassador "deeply concerned" about Japan dolphin killing

TAIJI, Japan Mon Jan 20, 2014 4:47am EST

Fishermen in wetsuits hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji, western Japan, January 20, 2014. REUTERS/Adrian Mylne

Fishermen in wetsuits hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji, western Japan, January 20, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Adrian Mylne

TAIJI, Japan (Reuters) - In an unusual move, U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy has expressed deep concern over the traditional dolphin hunt in western Japan, where local fisherman corral the mammals into a secluded bay before killing many for meat.

The annual hunt currently under way in Taiji in western Japan has long been a source of controversy and was the topic of "The Cove", an Oscar-winning documentary.

"(I am) deeply concerned by inhumanness of drive hunt dolphin killing," Kennedy tweeted at the weekend, adding that the U.S. government opposes drive hunt fishing.

Every year the fishermen of Taiji, in Wakayama prefecture, drive hundreds of dolphins into a cove, select some for sale to marine parks, release some back into the sea and kill the rest for meat.

Japan has long maintained that killing dolphins is not banned under any international treaty and that the animals are not endangered.

"Dolphin fishing is one of Japan's traditional fishing techniques and is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a regular news conference in Tokyo on Monday.

"We will explain our stance to the American side," said Suga, adding marine mammals were an important marine resource and should be fished in a sustainable way.

Sea Shepherd, one of the animal protection groups that monitor fishermen in Taiji, said more than 200 dolphins had been rounded up into the secluded bay.

"It takes up to 20 to 30 minutes for these dolphins to die, where they bleed out, suffocate or drown in the process of being dragged to the butcher house," Sea Shepherd activist Melissa Sehgal told Reuters.

Sehgal added that the bottlenose dolphins were also valuable as they can be trained to do tricks. The Taiji fishing union was not immediately available for comment.

Taiji came into the spotlight after the 2009 release of "The Cove", directed by former National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos. It shows the hunt in grisly detail and calls for an end to commercial fishing of marine mammals.

Fishermen say the cull is a traditional part of their livelihood in an area that has fished dolphins and whales for thousands of years.

The dolphin hunting season runs yearly from September to March, the Taiji fishing association said. Sea Shepherd says 176 marine mammals had been killed this season, including bottlenose, spotted, striped and risso's dolphins.

Exact monitoring is difficult, with fishermen erecting tarpaulins over their killing area and blocking access to the cove.

(Writing and additional reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Nick Macfie)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (9)
zoinkers123 wrote:
There are real problems that the US government should be deeply concerned about…dolphins…pretty low on my list. How about that 20 trillion USD in debt? I’ll leave it at that. Don’t get me started.

Jan 19, 2014 9:54pm EST  --  Report as abuse
WhyMeLord wrote:
Your cavalier attitude towards civilized animal husbandry labels you as witless and boorish. After many lengthy business trips to Japan,
I came to realize that they would eat anything that was ever alive at some time in their existence. 1000 year old eggs, snakes, rats, dogs, unborn calves, the infamous shark-fin soup, etc. If left to their own devices, all animal life on earth will become extinct.

Jan 20, 2014 12:01am EST  --  Report as abuse
WhyMeLord wrote:
What’s 20 trillion in debt got to do with the slaughter of dolphins?
You GOP/NRA/TEA robber-barons are all the same – drill baby, drill.
Drill ’till there’s nothing left to drill for, then burn baby, burn.
Left to your own devices, your grandkids will inherit a barren world.
Only appropriate I suppose, you idiots are leading a barren life now.

Jan 20, 2014 12:06am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.


California's historic drought

With reservoirs at record lows, California is in the midst of the worst drought in decades.  Slideshow