Conservationists slam Japan's dolphin drive hunts+
(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)LONDON, April 11_(Kyodo) _ The practice of dolphin drive hunts in Japan is cruel and is being fueled by the high prices that aquarium owners are willing to pay for the animals, according to environmentalists.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in Britain says it is demand from aquariums, both in and outside Japan, which "has now become the primary motivation for the hunts to continue."
According to WDCS, more than 6,000 dolphins and small whales were killed in drive hunts in Japan between 2000 and 2004. Nearly 250 dolphins were taken alive from the hunts and were expected to have been placed in aquariums.
Drive hunts are currently conducted in Futo, Shizuoka Prefecture, and Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture.
In these hunts, fishermen place metal bars in the water and bang on them. This causes dolphins to head for the shore where they are captured by nets, according to WDCS.
Some of the animals are injured and suffocate in the nets.
Aquarium staff select the young and appealing dolphins while the remainder are slaughtered. Their throats are sometimes cut or they are stabbed. They may be left to bleed to death in the water or slaugtherhouse, often taking several minutes to die, says WDCS.
The Japanese government advises cutting spinal cords in order to reduce the time to death.
With little demand for dolphin meat and an increase in whale-watching, drive hunts were thought to be coming to an end. However, continuing demand from aquariums means that the practice is still going on, according to the campaigners.
They estimate prices in Japan range between $3,300 and $6,200 per animal. This is far less than the price for a dead dolphin which was estimated in 1996 to be around $300.
Prices are higher for animals exported overseas to aquariums in China, Taiwan and the Philippines.
The dolphins captured in the hunts have a significantly shorter life span due to the stress involved. Captivity also reduces their longevity, WDCS says.
In October 2005, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums stated, "The catching of dolphins by the use of a method known as 'drive fishing' is considered...a non-acceptable capture method."
Anticaptivity Campaigner for WDCS Cathy Williamson said, "We believe that people would not visit aquariums holding animals captured in drive hunts if they knew the truth about the cruel way in which the whales and dolphins came to be there.
"These animals are highly intelligent, self-aware beings. During the hunts they suffer extreme fear and distress, not to mention the pain of slaughter, over a prolonged period of time. Added to this is the stress of confinement in captivity, torn from their families and the life of freedom they enjoyed in the wild. If you want to help us to end the drive hunts in Japan, please log on to http://www.drivenbydemand.org and find out more."
Currently, more than 20,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales are killed around the coastlines of Japan in drive hunts, hand-held harpoon and cross bow hunts, and in so-called 'small type coastal whaling', where harpoons are fired from a boat's bow, according to WDCS.