Taiji, Japan is planning a marine park where visitors will be able to see and swim with dolphins and small whales. In that same town, not far from where the park will be, large pods of cetaceans are driven to the shallow waters by boats and brutally killed.
The annual hunt season, which usually spans from September through March, has become infamous due to the documentary “The Cove” and the yearly return of activists like Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians who document the hunts and send daily updates to the world. Thousands of dolphins and whales are killed each year. Activists also point out the link between the slaughter and marine mammal captivity, as the animals who are not selected for captivity by trainers are then killed in front of their pod and their meat is sold. The captive dolphins and whales are transported to aquariums and marine parks around the world.
Now, Taiji is planning to open a marine park, where visitors will be allowed to swim or kayak with the dolphins and whales who have been captured. According to AFP, a net will be placed at the entrance to Moriura Bay in northwestern Taiji, and the park will span about 28 hectares or 69 acres.
The killing cove is in Taiji’s Hatakejiri Bay, and officials say they are not planning to stop the slaughter. “We already use dolphins and small whales as a source of tourism in the cove where dolphin-hunting takes place. In summer swimmers can enjoy watching the mammals that are released from a partitioned-off space. But we plan to do it on a larger scale. This is part of Taiji’s long-term plan of making the whole town a park, where you can enjoy watching marine mammals while tasting various marine products, including whale and dolphin meat,” said Masaki Wada.
Those who oppose the hunts are pointing out the contradiction of celebrating whales and dolphins while capturing and killing or separating pods nearby. “The whole plan is based on the concept that they can exploit dolphins and whales freely as their resource, but the mammals don’t belong to Taiji. Marine mammals migrate across oceans, and internationally public opinion is that wildlife should be allowed to live as they are. The plan will only ignite more protests over dolphin-hunting,” said Nanami Kurasawa, the secretary general for Tokyo-based Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network. Kurasawa added that demand for dolphin meat is decreasing and only 100 people participate in dolphin hunts. “If they want to get more tourists, they can for example exhibit the beautiful whale-hunting ships used in ancient days, that would show their tradition without stirring more controversy,” she said.
Sea Shepherd’s leader of their Cove Guardian campaign, Melissa Sehgal told Ecorazzi, “Taiji is a town of hypocrisy. Misleading tourists into believing that these dolphins and whales are happy and well cared for. Meanwhile around the corner, an entire pod is being slaughtered. Once again proving that this is not about culture, it is about carnage.”
Taiji’s new marine park is set to open within the next five years.