Legal Challenge Could End Japanese Dolphin Hunting for Good

Dolphin hunting in Taiji, a whaling town in Japan, could soon be illegal.

According to The Guardian, nonprofit Action for Dolphins and Japanese NGO the Life Investigation Agency have both submitted evidence to end the hunts for good.

Taiji dolphin hunts became the subject of public outrage after 2009 film “The Cove” shed light on the cruel nature of the practice; dolphins are herded into a cove and then speared or knifed over the side of fishing boats.

Action for Dolphins notes that this method of killing the animal is particularly inhumane; dolphins bleed out for several minutes, resulting in a slow and painful death. According to the film, 23,000 dolphins and porpoises are brutally killed in Japan every year.

The activists note that as dolphins are technically mammals and not fish, hunters in Taiji are breaking the law by removing them from the ocean to be sold for meat or to aquariums for entertainment.

Chief executive of Action for Dolphins, Sarah Lucas, said, “Dolphins are mistakenly viewed as ‘fish’ in Japan, and therefore domestic laws protecting mammals from cruelty have not been applied to them.” 

But Taiji’s fishermen claim they have no intention of ending the hunts, notes The Guardian. According to them, hunting dolphins is a crucial part of the town’s economy. It also has cultural significance; the region is known for its whaling heritage.

Lucas maintains that if the legal challenge is unsuccessful and the hunting continues, it could have dire consequences for the marine mammals“The irresponsible overhunting of hundreds of dolphins and whales has contributed to the near elimination of some species in Japanese waters,” she explained.

Another spokesperson for Action for Dolphins added, “This isn’t about casting moral aspersions on Japan, but about compliance with the country’s own laws. We are trying to depoliticize the debate.”

Japan’s whaling industry recently hit the headlines after it withdrew from the Japanese Whaling Commission. Some felt the move was a step back for progress against the industry, however, ocean conservation organization Sea Shepherd labeled the news a “victory.”

According to Sea Shepherd, by withdrawing from the commission, Japan essentially declared itself as an illegal “pirate whaling nation,” making the fight against Japanese poachers easier.