Ending the Dolphin Hunts in Japan

By Hardy Jones Executive Director, BlueVoice.org

I founded BlueVoice.org (www.bluevoice.org) to use the power of visual images as a means to help protect the ocean and its inhabitants. We utilize a combination of streaming video, internet Action Alerts with embedded protest links, and on-the-scene coverage to put pressure on our adversaries to end their barbaric practices. What follows is a success story-how we managed to turn dolphin killers into their protectors.

For decades fishermen in Futo, Japan have hunted dolphins-killing thousands of them. In 1999 we took video footage of the slaughter of a pod of 80 bottlenose dolphins at Futo. When the footage was shown on television, horrified viewers around the world responded with an avalanche of international outrage at the carnage.

Since then we continued monitoring Futo and other villages in Japan where dolphin killing takes place. The fishermen are incredibly sensitive to the international backlash that occurs when their brutality is transmitted on television. On one occasion they were so enraged at the coverage of a pod of pilot whales being killed that they attacked the BlueVoice.org team and attempted to seize their cameras and videotape.

In addition to obtaining footage of the cruelty, we work with the fishermen to create an alternative to replace the income lost if they stop killing dolphins. I'm delighted to report that on October 2002 the head of the Futo dolphin killers, Izumi Ishii, launched his own eco-tourism business, the first dolphin watch touring company in his country. It was an astonishing success with press coming from all over Japan. Mr. Ishii's dolphin watching business continues to grow.

Ocean-based ecotourism is now well established and helps to protect dolphins off the coast. The dolphin hunters cannot hunt while there are tourists dolphin watching. So, despite having a government-issued permit to kill 600 dolphins per year, the villagers of Futo did not kill a single dolphin during the 2002-2003 season.

However, the local fisheries association is asserting that it will resume the dolphin slaughter this September. Continued vigilance is vital.

Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan helped with the effort in Futo. In addition, BlueVoice.org received contributions from several environmental groups, including AWI's late and revered president, Christine Stevens. This success was truly the result of global cooperation.

Our next effort is to stop the killing at Taiji, the last village in Japan where fishermen regularly hunt dolphins. They are killing some 1,200 dolphins each season. Our presence on the scene in Taiji can make a difference as it did in Futo, and the Taiji fishermen can count on us being there to report their atrocities to the world.