one green planet
one green planet

This week, the world watched as more than 250 bottlenose dolphins were rounded up in Taiji’s cove for the town’s annual slaughter and capture. Since the documentary “The Cove” came out in 2009, the bloody truth of Taiji’s waters has sparked international outrage like never before.

Yet even though many are disturbed by the bloody, heartbreaking events that happen yearly in Taiji, there is still quite a disconnection going on between Taiji’s operation and its connection to marine parks and aquariums.

Indeed, the basic driving force of the annual hunt is not for food, but rather the hundreds of thousands of dollars that come in from the sale of these wild-caught dolphins to marine parks and aquariums around the world.

Capt. Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, recently told CBS Evening News that a dolphin can fetch for up to $150,000. Now, that’s quite a price tag, but if aquarium facilities and marine parks are willing to pay it, then Taiji’s dolphin hunt and others will continue.

As Discovery News reports, “Among the dolphins housed at marine parks and aquariums in the United States, 100 were caught in the wild and are on display at 23 facilities nationwide, according to Ceta-Base, a database of captive-held cetaceans.”

Some of these dolphins were caught before 1990, while others, like a stranded dolphin taken in by SeaWorld San Diego in 2004, are more recent acquisitions.

Many aquarium and marine park facilities may argue that wild-caught dolphins are essential to their “conservation” programs but, according to Humane Society International and World Society for the Protection of Animals’ report, “Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity”:

Public display is often justified with the argument that essential scientific research is conducted on captive animals. However, a majority of this research relates to improving husbandry practices, not to solving conservation problems. In addition, captive animals are rarely considered ideal research subjects when attempting to answer questions related to conservation issues.

The report also states that “few endangered or threatened species are being bred in captivity and no reintroduction-to-the-wild research is being conducted, at least for whales and dolphins.”

While there might be some facilities engaged in serious conservation activities, most aquariums and marine parks around the world are not – they are simply in it to turn a profit.

In effect, purchasing a ticket to a marine park or aquarium helps fuel the traumatizing capture and cruel slaughter of wild-caught dolphins like those in Taiji. Beyond this, such support ultimately sends out the message that it is okay to keep these highly sentient and intelligent animals in concrete pools and tanks for the rest of their lives. It is us — the consumers, the audience members, the swim-with-dolphin participants — that are responsible, in part, for their imprisonment. Yet, it is also because of this decision-making position that we are in the perfect place to help and be a part of the solution.

Find out what you can do to help stop the dolphin hunt in Taiji right here, and if you’re really yearning to witness the beauty and grace of a dolphin, consider opting for the humane route: an out-at-sea dolphin-watching experience, as it is through this type of experience – where we see dolphins being their true, wild selves — that our understanding of and appreciation for these creatures can deepen.

Image source: Ezra S F / Flickr