Tuesday, July 30, 2013



By Rob Gilhooly 
 special thanks to THE JAPAN TIMES
JUL 26, 2013


Despite an international trend taking the opposite tack, the number of aquariums in Japan is growing and sales of dolphins continue to flourish, results of an independent study have revealed.

Animal welfare groups Elsa Nature Conservancy and Help Animals have collated data from official documents, marine facilities and other organizations showing Japan is the world’s leader in aquariums and the numbers of cetaceans kept in them.

“When it comes to aquariums, Japan is the globe’s superpower,” leads the report, “Dolphins Raised in Japanese Facilities,” released July 20. The majority of dolphins kept in captivity are taken from the wild and cetacean deaths within facilities “are not unusual,” it continues.

Elsa and Help Animals found some 30 million people annually visit 65 facilities that are members of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Nonmember facilities take the nation’s aquarium count close to 100, meaning almost one-fifth of the world’s total are located in Japan.

Around 57 percent of JAZA member institutions keep a total of 600 dolphins.

“When I started the research in 2003 there were 500 dolphins in captivity, meaning numbers have since increased 20 percent,” said Elsa’s Sakae Hemmi. “This is a dire situation . . . especially in light of an international trend to reduce (the) numbers of aquariums and dolphins in captivity.”

The United Kingdom closed all its dolphinariums back in 1993 and more than 23 other nations, including Australia, Mexico, Thailand and Croatia, have either banned the catching or trade of wild dolphins, or keeping them in captivity. This is mainly due to a growing belief that to do so constitutes a form of animal abuse.

In March, India announced the banning of new dolphinariums after they were deemed unlawful under the country’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The United States has around 30 of the facilities, down by 14 in the past 20 years, according to Naomi Rose at the Humane Society International, headquartered in Washington. Around one-third of them refuse to keep dolphins, Hemmi and Yukari Sugisaka of Help Animals have discovered.

“Overall, the upward trend is only seen in the developing world, while it’s the reverse in the developed world,” said Rose, who specializes in marine mammal protection issues. “Japan is considered a first-world country, but when it comes to this industry, it’s in the same camp as China and other developing nations.”

China’s aquarium industry is also growing rapidly, with most of its dolphins Japan-caught imports, according to the report. Japan’s overall exports have climbed steadily over the past decade, from eight in 2003 to 51 last year, the study says.

Between the first six months of this year, a known total of 67 dolphins have been either exported or transferred within Japan. Some species reportedly sell for as much as ¥15 million.

Over the past decade, an average of more than 100 bottlenose and other popular species have been caught annually for aquariums by fishermen in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, which was the subject of the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary “The Cove.”

The film focused not only on what many experts worldwide believe to be inhumane hunting methods employed by Taiji’s fishermen, but also their annual slaughter for the meat of hundreds more of the cetaceans.

According to Hemmi, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums last year called on associate members to ban the import of dolphins caught in Taiji’s “inhumane” drives.

Diana Reiss, a specialist in dolphin cognitive psychology at Hunter College, New York, says it is “unconscionable” that institutions claiming to be guardians of such “highly evolved, cognizant animals” should purchase dolphins from a fishermen who “sell dolphins with one hand, and slaughter even more with the other.”

She also said that dolphins are not suited to aquariums.

“Great Apes are now in sanctuaries . . . and dolphins need the same treatment. They are not suited to aquariums and the current trend in the advanced world reflects that,” she said.

JAZA is unable to meet WAZA’s call due to national catch quotas set by the fisheries ministry that permit the drives based on the “scientifically disproven” belief that dolphins are depleting yellowfin tuna stocks, Reiss added.

Shuhei Hasegawa, a dolphin specialist and manager of Minami Chita Beachland in Nagoya, argued that Japan’s catch quotas are set at “levels that will not impact their survival.”

“People are aware of dolphins’ abilities because they see them in dolphin shows,” he said, adding that dolphins’ perceived intelligence is largely a result of aquarium training.

“Off-site conservation . . . is one role of aquariums. This is why we are making efforts to breed (dolphins),” Hasegawa said.

The authors of the Elsa-Help Animals report claim that in captivity, the dolphin reproduction rate is low and mortality high. Many dolphins die within months of captivity, according to Sugisaka.

But HSI’s Rose says captive dolphins live as long as their counterparts in the wild — roughly 45 years.

“The difference is, in captivity dolphins have no predators and they are well-attended. They should be living much longer, as other captive animals do,” said Rose of the Humane Society International.

Elsa’s Hemmi says Japan is doing to its dolphins what the U.S. did to American buffalo in the 19th century.

“At the present rate, in some regions there is a distinct possibility that (some species) will be wiped out,” Hemmi said. Drives in Futo, Shizuoka Prefecture, were suspended in 2004 due to drastically depleted stocks, she added.


Thursday, July 18, 2013


Japan threatens to quit whaling body

image via news.nationalgeographic~dot~com 

A trans-Tasman bid to outlaw scientific whaling by Japan has closed with the Asian power warning a decision against it could force it to quit the International Whaling Commission.

Deputy foreign minister Koji Tsuruoka said Japan relied on the International Court of Justice to find that it had obeyed the law by halting commercial whaling, and only conducting scientific whaling within the rules of the IWC treaty.

"What would happen to stable multilateral frameworks when such assurances disappear?"  Tsuruoka said.  "When one morning suddenly you find your state bound by the policy of the majority and the only way out is to leave such an organisation?

"Japan, a country that places importance on the rule of law, trusts that the outcome of this case will uphold stable multilateralism."

Tsuruoka's closing words to the ICJ on Tuesday followed a claim from Japanese counsel Payam Akhavan that the politicisation of science, sacrificing of culture and disregarding of international law meant that soon there might be no whaling nations at the IWC.

However Akhavan also underscored Japan's compliance with the rule of law, and observers said Japan's threats to leave the IWC had been made repeatedly in the past.

Tsuruoka was closing four weeks of hearings at the ICJ in The Hague in which Australia asked the court to find that Japan's whaling program was not scientific research, but disguised commercial whaling.

Australia is asking the court to ban the hunt, under which Japan has been whaling in the Antarctic for 26 years, ever since the global moratorium commercial whaling came into force.

"Whaling for purposes of scientific research by Japan is not commercial whaling in disguise," Tsuruoka said. "The objective of the program is to obtain scientific information on the basis of which Japan might be able to ask for the moratorium to be lifted."

New Zealand intervened in the case earlier this month, with Attorney General Chris Finlayson arguing that global whaling treaty's purpose was not the protection of commercial whaling.

Finlayson told the ICJ the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was intended to be for the conservation and development of whale stocks.


July 17, 2013



International Court of Justice – July 15th

Sea Shepherd has been denied access to enter the Peace Palace in order to attend the first session of the second round of oral arguments and observations of Japan.

At first the ICJ representative at the door informed us the hearings were not open to the public. This came as a surprise as in official writing to our attorney we had been offered two seats by the ICJ to attend all Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening)sittings.

The lady was very polite though, and obvious very uncomfortable.

When I showed a copy of the written confirmation from the Court to our attorney in which we were invited to attend all hearings, and added that we had been allowed to attend all previous hearings, she sort of confessed she had been given strict orders not to let us in.

She started to really feel uncomfortable, discussed with her colleague. and made a telephone call. After hanging up she informed us it was because of technical problems we were not allowed to attend.

As I could not get any clue of what that was supposed to mean I asked if I could talk to the person she just spoke to.

She did neither want to give a name nor number, and left it up to us as what to do. She was still very polite and I sort of felt sorry for her being the messenger.

As I did have a general telephone number at bottom of my written confirmation, obtained via our attorney, I decided to give it a try.

Another really friendly lady, who also informed us we were not welcome and that she was really sorry. She offered to see what she could do and asked me to call again in ten minutes.

I called again after ten minutes and in the end was informed that ICJ need not to justify as to give a reason why we were not allowed to enter the Peace Palace.

So, we have not been given a concrete reason. Leaves it to speculation.

As mentioned before today was the first session of the second round of oral argument and observations of Japan.

Could it be that under pressure from Japan ICJ did not want SSCS to be present and in order to ban Sea Shepherd therefore had no other choice then to deny entry to all public?

Sea Shepherd has been mentioned several times in the ICJ over the last weeks.

Japanese statistics showed Japan blamed Sea Shepherd for not being able to reach their sampling quota (read; number of whales to be killed).

Good to see Sea Shepherd campaigns have been effective and have saved the lifes of thousands of whales.

Geert Vons, director Sea Shepherd Netherlands 

Monday, July 15, 2013


Posted on July 15th, 2013 by Allie Bollman
By Rachel Yalowitz, Summer Intern

The most recent environmental case to be heard by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan; New Zealand intervening), Australia is challenging Japan’s whale hunting practices as an unlawful violation of the International Whaling Commission ban on commercial whaling. The hearing began on June 26, 2013.

Australia began the proceedings in 2010, when it filed suit against Japan, asserting:

“Japan’s continued pursuit of a large scale programme of whaling under the Second Phase of its Japanese Whale Research Programme under Special Permit in the Antarctic (“JARPA II”) [is] in breach of obligations assumed by Japan under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (“ICRW”), as well as its other international obligations for the preservation of marine mammals and marine environment.”

JARPA II, the 1946 International Convention Regulation Whaling, and the International Whaling Commission precedents of 1986 do permit the killing of whales for the purpose of scientific research, but Australia and Japan strongly disagree on whether Japan is whaling for that purpose.  Japan claims that its whale hunts are conducted solely for research, but Australia alleges that Japan has been whaling in order to sell and consume whale meat.  Japan is likely to argue that scientific research on whales is necessary to monitor the impact of whales on the Japanese fishing industry.  However, as Geert Vons—a representative from the Sea Shepard conservation group in support of Australia—told the New York Times, “Scientists agree that you study behavior or dietary patterns when the animals are alive.”  

Australia has requested the ICJ to issue an order that would include the following provisions:

Japan must end the research program

Japan must rescind any authorizations, permits, or licenses that allow the program’s activities; and
Japan must offer declarations that state its intention to avoid any further action under JARPA II.
The hearings will continue through July 16, and a final ruling is not expected for several months.

photo via www. britannica~dot~com

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Save Japan Dolphins Campaign 
Partners with Save Misty the Dolphin for Japan Dolphins Day 2013

June 10, 2013 by David Phillips, Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute’s Save Japan Dolphins (SJD) Campaign has partnered with the Save Misty the Dolphin (SMTD) social media campaign to facilitate Japan Dolphins Day (JDD) 2013, happening on September 1st, 2013. This year’s JDD will feature a new website, japandolphinsday.net, where people can create their own events or join existing ones.

JDD is an annual day of action that unites individuals, activists and organizations in cities around the globe in order to voice concern over the dolphin hunting practices that are carried out in Taiji, Japan. The aim of JDD is to end the hunts and eliminate the demand for captive dolphin entertainment such as dolphinariums and swim-with-dolphin programs.  In 2012 alone, there were nearly 100 events in cities around the world, including Tel Aviv, London, Bangkok, Los Angeles, and dozens more.

The hunting season in Taiji begins on September 1st each year and runs through March-April. During this time hundreds of dolphins are brutally killed for their meat. Live dolphins are also captured and sold to captivity facilities in countries around the world. This lucrative trade in live dolphins adds significant financial incentive for the hunts to continue each year.

This year, SJD and SMTD have joined forces in order to augment JDD 2013’s international presence and to streamline the event creation and registration process. An innovative web platform has been established that will provide event organizers with personal event pages and easier access to materials, forums and other resources.

Says Ric O’Barry, SJD Campaign Director and JDD founder: “This year’s JDD will be bigger and better than ever. We need as many people as possible to head out to local events on Sept. 1 to say ‘No!’ to dolphin abuse. We will not give up until these hunts are stopped for good.”

It is important to note that most Japanese people do not even know the dolphin hunts occur -- the hunts have been deliberately hidden from the public by the Japanese government and the dolphin hunters, along with a compliant national media.  Most Japanese do not eat dolphin meat and, when shown video of the hunts, are appalled by the slaughter.  Many Japanese are thrilled with whale- and dolphin-watching trips, which are growing along the Japanese coast.  JDD strives not only to urge the Japan government to end the hunts, but also tries to educate the Japanese people about the hunts, the toxic dangers of eating dolphin meat, and the alternatives to dolphin hunting, such as dolphin watching, that are available.

SJD and SMTD anticipate record numbers of global events for JDD 2013. To date, JDD has seen increasing attendance numbers each year, as public awareness and concern grow. JDD 2013 will make significant contributions to the dialogue surrounding the hunts in Taiji and dolphin captivity.

You can create an event or join an existing one in your city at japandolphinsday.net.

Visit savejapandolphins.org for more information about the hunts.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013



Why the aquarium trade is
the real dolphin killer behind 'The Cove'
Monday 8 July 2013 10:56AM Alastair Lucas

On Tuesday the International Court of Justice will hear arguments on 'scientific whaling' and the dispute between Australia and Japan. But what about that other killing scandal—the dolphin fishing in Taiji made notorious in the film The Cove? Goldman Sachs banker Alastair Lucas has travelled to Japan to break down the economics of dolphin hunting, and campaign against the practice.

I had a vague knowledge of [dolphin fishing] through The Cove, a wonderful film I recommend to everyone—it won an Academy Award.

I hadn't seen the film in full and my daughter brought it to my attention, and that led to her deciding to go to Taiji to see these killings. I decided to go with her.

I spent, I have to say, the worst week of my life in the most horrible place in the world—this little town on the east coast of Japan. And we witnessed for a week these appalling atrocities.

The method through which the dolphins are killed is the cheapest way—that's the only conclusion that we can draw. Dolphins are large animals, it's quite hard to shoot them, and guns and bullets are expensive. The way they kill them is the most efficacious. This is a moneymaking operation—it's not traditional, it's not cultural, it's all about making money for a very small group of so-called fishermen in this town.

They herd the dolphins into this cove in a very traumatic way, using a wall of sound that confuses the animals. They keep them overnight, it's hard to know quite why they keep them overnight, but obviously they can't eat during this period, so they are disorientated and very hungry. Then you watch the buyers come. Buyers come from aquariums in Japan and China—we believe also the Middle East.

When the killing starts, you hear the screaming. You can't get within a couple of hundred metres but you hear the screaming. It's the most traumatic thing I've ever been a witness to or experienced.
And the handsome ones, the juveniles who look good, not the babies and not the older ones, not the ordinary ones, but the handsome ones are bought for aquariums. And it may be that they are the unlucky ones, they get to live and they go in unregulated aquariums in those places. Of course Australian and American aquariums have long since banned buying a dolphin from Taiji.

The rest, those that aren't bought for aquariums, are butchered in a very traumatic way.

It's terrible to watch and it's actually terrible to listen to. They use a metal rod. It's based on pithing—we can all remember having to pith frogs in biology class. They seem to think that this is a humane way, they have argued that it is. What it involves is forcing a metal rod into the top of the dolphin, just behind the blowhole. They hold the tail, hold the animal at the nose and force this metal rod in. The animal goes into convulsions of pain.

And then they leave the metal rod in for a period. When they pull it out, they'll then hammer a wooden chock into the wound to prevent the blood staining the cove. We've all seen the photographs of blood in the cove—that no longer happens because they use these wooden chocks.

It's plainly enormously painful for the animal. Scientists from the University of Bristol in the UK and City University of New York have carried out quite an extensive study—their conclusions were that the method of killing was profoundly distressing, traumatic and painful, and it clearly is.

When the killing starts, you hear the screaming. You can't get within a couple of hundred metres but you hear the screaming. It's the most traumatic thing I've ever been a witness to or experienced.

The fishermen call them vermin. They run an argument that these are vermin of the sea that are eating fish stocks. There's no evidence of that, none whatsoever. In fact the evidence is to the contrary.

You'd liken it to a logging operation. They kick them, they push them, they throw them on the beach, they have no concern for these wonderful creatures as sentient beings, none whatsoever. They treat them like logs.

Dolphin meat is actually not a very important part of it. The economics is driven by the aquarium trade. So maybe 10 per cent of the animals go to the aquariums. It runs for six months of the year every day. Of the 20 dolphins, say, of a typical pod, maybe a couple of the handsome ones would go off to aquariums. They may sell for up to $150,000, $250,000. That drives the economics.

The meat is a by-product, and it goes into supermarkets in Japan. We searched a number of supermarkets for dolphin meat. It's hard to find. It most probably is relabelled as whale meat, which is more acceptable. Some of it apparently goes into pet food.

It's absolutely unnecessary. The quantity of animals, they are killing about 2,000 a year, that's just infinitesimal in terms of the food requirements of Japan. They are absolutely unnecessary for human protein intake.

The town is a dolphin town. It's bizarre. The town gates are big archways with dolphins on them. The ferries are great big dolphins with happy smiling dolphin faces and dolphin tails. They sell dolphin models in the supermarkets, and people go as a tourist town to Taiji to share in a dolphin experience. So they purport to love dolphins.

On our first day there we went to the cove and there was a pod trapped there in readiment for slaughter the next day. There was a man and his kids, and the father was showing the kids the dolphins and laughing and giggling. I don't speak Japanese, so I got my iPad out and translated through the iPad, 'Are you aware these animals will be slaughtered tomorrow?' He read it, he clearly understood but wanted nothing to do with it.

So it's a town built on false pretences. It has this ugly, ugly secret. It's not a secret anymore but it appears to the Japanese people a secret. Holidaymakers go about in their happy way in this happy dolphin town where in the early morning before the sun comes up the dolphins are slaughtered each morning.

I think that one doesn't want to get drawn into a position of saying the way the dolphins are killed is bad and every other way of killing animals is good, and I absolutely don't hold to that position. But I think we can make some distinctions about the intelligence and family nature of dolphins which puts them into a different category of animals. We know much about the social behaviour and the sheer intelligence of dolphins. Dolphins have a brain 1.7 kilos, the average human brain is 1.3 kilos.

Pigs also have intelligence. But the rules for abattoir killing are for humane killing using stunning. Ensuring that an animal is not aware of its impending death and that it's stunned is the foundation of modern abattoir killing. We all know that doesn't always happen, we are all very aware of what happens to some of our animals in the live export trade.

But the way dolphins are first herded, so they have an awareness of their impending death 24 hours before they are killed—these animals know something terrible has happened, they've been trapped in these tiny enclosures. They know something very bad is happening. And then the animals are killed one by one, each animal takes up to six to eight minutes to die. The others can hear the screaming.

 We watched a pod of pilot whales being killed, and those animals are very hard to kill, it can take 20 minutes to die. These animals have such understanding of their fate. The method of killing is so profoundly cruel, it does distinguish it from the killing of farm animals.

My daughter and I have created, with the help of other people, an organisation called Australia for Dolphins. We've had just wonderful support so far. We'll be launching a website and we hope to get as many members as possible, and we're going to use the money lawfully and respectfully and peacefully to advocate for these wonderful animals.

Some wonderful Australians have agreed to support us, people like Fiona Stanley and Gus Nossal, and sports people like Pat Rafter and Sally Pearson, Dawn Fraser, Olivia Newton John, Michael Caton, just wonderful people who are concerned, have agreed to lend their support. We're enormously gratified by their support, and I'm embarrassed about leaving off a whole bunch of people who've agreed. So we will have a wonderful backing of people.

We feel very strongly that the Japanese government is at a tipping point. The embarrassment on this issue is building and building, and a number of people who are expert in this area have said that a strong movement from Australia might be the tipping point which stops the whole thing. We really think we have a possibility of bringing this to an end.

Alastair Lucas is the Chairman for Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs Australia. You can find Australia for Dolphins website, soon to be relaunched, at afd.org.au. This article is an edited transcript of Mr Lucas’s comments on The Science Show.

Monday, July 8, 2013


July 9 ~ 2013
by Andrew Darby ~ Hobart correspondent for Fairfax Media

High stakes battle: Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin closes in on the Japanese research vessel Nisshin Maru earlier this year. Photo: Reuters/Sea Shepherd
New Zealand has rejected Japan's claim to be legally whaling in the Antarctic as an attempt to reduce the global whaling treaty to an industry cartel.

Intervening in the International Court of Justice case brought by Australia against Japan on Monday, the NZ Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson, said the treaty's purpose was not the protection of commercial whaling.
Instead Mr Finlayson told the ICJ in The Hague that the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was intended to be for the conservation and development of whale stocks.

Its key article eight on "special permit" scientific whaling, which is being argued before ICJ, did not give carte blanche to any member country to sidestep the rest of the treaty, he said.

Under the article, Japan currently issues its whalers with permits to kill up to 935 minke whales, 50 fin whales, and 50 humpback whales in the Antarctic.

Over 26 years more than 10,000 whales have been killed in the program, including 18 fin whales, but the humpback quota has been suspended.

Japan told the court last week that article eight unambiguously said decision-making power on permits rested with the state party concerned.
Mr Finlayson said Japan had tried to sew together snippets of the article to construct a blanket exemption from other parts of the treaty.
"Far from creating a blanket exemption, the words create an obligation on the contracting government to operate within the words of the convention when issuing a special permit," Mr Finlayson said.

New Zealand counsel's, Penelope Ridings, said countries which chose to issue special permits had obligations to objectively determine the lowest number of whales necessary to kill.

Dr Ridings said "strident unilateralism" by any country issuing a special permit would be contrary to international obligations for meaningful co-operation.

Australia has told the court that Japan's scientific program is commercial whaling cloaked in the ''lab coat of science''.
Japan replied that Australia was on an alarmist crusade to impose its cultural preferences over the Japanese.
NZ's intervention came in the third week of the hearing, ahead of the appearance of Australian Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Tuesday as final submissions begin.