WAZA Suspends Membership of Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) for Link to Brutal Taiji Dolphin Hunt

Statement from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

A dolphin is lifted via crane into the tanks
at Taiji’s Dolphin Resort
Photo: Sea Shepherd

On this Earth Day 2015, there is major news to report from The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). The organization has today announced that it has suspended the membership of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) because JAZA has refused to prohibit its member aquariums from taking dolphins captured in Taiji, Japan’s brutal drive hunt.

In a statement released today, April 22, 2015, WAZA writes, “The basis for the suspension is a determination that JAZA has violated the WAZA Code of Ethics and Animal Welfare. Moreover, WAZA Council re-affirmed its position that members of WAZA must confirm that they will not acquire dolphins from the Taiji fishery.”

Each year since 2010, Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians have been on the ground in Taiji daily throughout the six-month drive hunt season – which spans from September 1 until March – documenting and live streaming every capture and slaughter of dolphins and small whales as part of our Operation Infinite Patience campaign, ensuring the eyes of the world remain on Taiji’s infamous killing cove. Our Cove Guardian volunteers have documented time and time again the inextricable link between captivity and the slaughter. In Taiji, dolphin killers and trainers work side-by-side to hand-pick the “prettiest” dolphins (those without visible scars) to be sold for captivity. This occurs simultaneously to the slaughter process, and newly imprisoned captive dolphins must witness the murder of their family members before their very eyes. Those taken captive are transported to Taiji Harbor’s holding pens or are immediately taken to one of three captive facilities in Taiji. Some are ultimately sold to other aquariums in Japan or overseas to end up in China, the Middle East, and elsewhere.

The captive trade is the true reason for the drive hunt in Taiji, the economic fuel that drives the hunting boats each day. Just one captive dolphin can be sold for $100,000 USD or more.

A bottlenose dolphin struggles during
the violent captive selection process
Photo: Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd supports WAZA’s decision to suspend the membership of JAZA for its role in Taiji’s horrific massacre of wild cetaceans. While we are elated to hear this long-overdue announcement, we also stand in firm opposition to the confinement of highly intelligent and socially complex whales and dolphins in captivity at WAZA aquariums, swim-with-dolphin programs and other captive facilities that continue to drive the demand for captive dolphins, and the wild captures still occurring around the world. These highly intelligent, sentient and socially complex marine mammals belong in the open ocean where they can engage in their natural behaviors and live in their natural family groups —  not performing tricks for food in concrete bathtubs while being subjected to loud music and noisy crowds.

Still, WAZA’s suspension of JAZA’s membership is a major step toward ending Taiji’s inhumane hunt that so brutally claims the lives of thousands of wild, migrating dolphins and whales each year. Even as an entity that is all about the captivity industry, today WAZA has taken an important step to distance itself from the slaughter that turns the waters of Taiji red with blood – blood that WAZA does not want on its hands. The tide is turning. One day, the cove will be a permanent and peaceful blue and profiting from the suffering of these familial and intelligent beings will be a practice driven into the past.

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