Diminishing Dolphins

The need for this resource

Every year roughly 20 000 dolphins are captured and/or killed in the annual dolphin drives. (Sea Shepherd, 2013). While dolphins are less commonly hunted compared to other animals, their slaughter remains controversial. Currently, only 2 countries are known to fish dolphins: Japan and The Faroe Islands. (Environmental Investigation Agency, 2013). Dolphins caught in The Faroe Islands are primarily killed for their meat. With such a small population situated in the middle of the Ocean, dolphins are an easily obtainable and much needed food source for villagers. In Japan, dolphins are caught for a variety of reasons. They are killed for their meat or are kept alive for entertainment purposes. Japan is the biggest exporter of live dolphins and many of these dolphins end up in either aquariums, commercial theme parks or in swim-with-dolphin programs. (Sea Shepherd, 2013).

Dolphin sounds

Mission Sounds

SWsfx_Dolphin by Mission Sounds

Impacts of the dolphin hunt

  • over 20 000 dolphins killed each year
  • roughly half of all dolphins killed are mothers, leaving behind newborns to fend for themselves
  • dolphin slaughter coves have forced dolphin populations to relocate further from the Japanese coastline
  • sound barriers installed in Japanese waters for the purpose of dolphin entrapment, regularily disrupt echolocation, causing disorientation among aquatic animals
  • polluted Japanese waters have caused bioaccumulation of mercury in dolphin tissue
  • dolphin meat is being falsely labelled as "whale meat" in Japan
  • dolphin meat is being pushed into Japanese school lunch programs
  • mercury-rich dolphin meat has caused sickness in humans
  • the controversy behind the Taiji dolphin slaughter has prompted the Japanese government to hide the "killing coves" from the general public
  • outrage/protests over dolphin slaughter have led Japanese police to become more aggressive towards activists and concerned citizens
  • the sale of live dolphins have forced these animals to live in captivity for the entertainment of others
  • captivity tanks limit the swimming space that dolphins are accustomed to in the oceans
  • capitvity causes stress and anxiety in dolphins and leads some to commit suicide

(The Cove, 2009)

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Searching for sustainable options

Currently, the only sustainable dolphin hunting methods in place are those being practiced by village fishermen in the Faroe Islands. Because villagers here have relied on dolphins as a primary source of food for thousands of years, the animals are valued much more and are killed humanely on a need-to-eat basis. (Faroe Islands Museum of Natural History, 2008). To expect these traditional hunting practices to cease would be unreasonable, however it would not be unreasonable to ask the same of the commercial fisheries in Japan. The lack of purpose that the commerical dolphin fisheries serve combined with the limited room for sustainable policies to be implemented, means that the only sustainable solution to the dolphin slaughter would be to shut it down completely. Japan's refusal to co-operate with International Whaling Commission members puts them in a unique position. Each year the market demand for dolphin meat decreases, yet the annual harvest of dolphin meat remains consistently high. (The Cove, 2009). The fact that most dolphin meat in Japan is falsely labelled as "whale meat" speaks volumes about how far the Japanese are going to push the sale of dolphin meat and to attempt to legitimize their commercial slaughter. The extenuating circumstances behind the continued slaughter of dolphins is an issue that the IWC must tackle and there needs to be reconciliation at the international level between Japan and other countries in order to reach an understanding that sees the end of dolphin drive hunting.

Dolphins are beautiful creatures that have been known throughout history to interact with humans in a distinct way from other animals. To this day, dolphins maintain a special relationship with humans and they are known to work with militaries and fisheries to defend coastlines and to yield bigger fish catches. More awareness should be spread about this shared connection to ensure that the relationship between dolphins and people is a positive one and not one that seeks to cause injury and death. The underlying admiration for this species that drives the entertainment industry needs to be addressed in a way that realizes the necessities of these dolphins. It is time to do away with the theme park dolphin shows and shift towards less harmful entertainment alternatives, such as underwater observatories. Underwater observatories are both financially and environmentally sound as they give paying customers the satisfaction of seeing live dolphins whil allowing the dolphins all the space they require in their natural habitiat.

By eliminating the slaughter of dolphins for their meat and by implementing alternative entertainment venues, sustainability of the dolphin population can be ensured and the special relationship that we hold with these animals can continue to thrive.

Photo Gallery

Dolphins save surfer's life

Dolphins Saves Surfers Life