The Dolphin hunters….

Dolphin hunt. Source: Google

Data reveals that nearly 1,000 whales are lost on a daily basis either due to marine litter or hunting. The latter is a struggle between local traditions and global anger.

By far, the world’s largest kill of dolphins and small whales is in Peru. Others are scattered across different continents including the community in the eye of the storm, Taiji in Japan.

Imagine this scene; A line of eight boats come into view just below the horizon and at that point about a dozen dolphins break through the glassy surface of the clear water. As these innocent dolphins happily glide through the waters, the men in the boats get their equipment on standby striking a warlike pose, getting closer to the dolphins. The last calm we see is that of a calf sticking close to its mother. Then came the sound of thrashing. A slaughter followed and the calf was thrown back into the water unsure of how to survive without its mother. The waters turn red with blood. One would think it was the “Red sea.”

A fisherman harpooning Dolphins. Source: Google

The above scene was portrayed in an Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove.” This documentary which sparked outrage among animal lovers is the hobby of the people of Taiji – the people who hunt Dolphins.

The earliest recorded coastal Dolphin hunts in Taiji can be traced back to the early 1600s. Scrolls on display in the town’s museum depict dozens of boats decorated with symbols taken from Buddhism and Japan’s indigenous religion, Shinto, in pursuit of a whale/Dolphins big enough to sustain the entire community for months.

Typically, these fishermen pursue pods of dolphins across open seas, banging metal poles against their boats in order to confuse their hypersensitive sonar, before herding them into a narrow inlet. There, they are either slaughtered for their meat or selected and sold for large sums to aquariums and marine parks.

Dolphin meat. Source: The Guardian

While dolphin meat for human consumption generates only modest profits, there are claims that Taiji’s fishermen can sell a live specimen to brokers for about 8,000 US dollars. A fully trained dolphin can then fetch more than 40,000 US dollars in return, if sold overseas, and about half that amount in Japan.

These Taiji fishermen take to the the sea between September and April to hunt bottlenose dolphins. They insist that they are continuing a tradition that enabled their ancestors to survive before the days of mass transport and the availability of other sources of nutrition.

They point out that they kill just under 2,000 Dolphins a year, which is a tenth of Japan’s annual quota, adding that none of the species is endangered.

Dolphins playing. Source: Washington Post

One of the community leaders simply known as Kai who spoke during the heat of the moment said; “We’re not ashamed of hunting dolphins and would never consider stopping, it’s the most important part of our local tradition. Just look around you (he points to the water bodies) if we didn’t make a living from the sea, there would be nothing left. People keep telling us to stop whaling and find another way of earning a living. But what on earth would we do instead?” – Source: The Guardian

The Taiji community in Japan is in a dire straight as the legacy of their forebears are under the threat of extinction by global best practices. Where should the line between cultural legacy and preservation of life be drawn? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section.

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