Sea Shepherd Testimony

There are currently twelve small dolphin hunting boats operating in Taiji, and each of these boats depart Taiji harbor at first light in search of wild dolphins. The boats fan out upon and beyond the horizon to cover a larger expanse of ocean, in order to effectively search well-known migratory routes.

Upon locating a pod, the dolphin hunters radio each of the other boats, giving them their location in order to start the ‘drive’ of the pod into the killing cove.

Entire extended family units – pods – are caught this way.  Elders, adults of reproducing age, pregnant females, juveniles and babies are all driven into the cove. Sometimes the pod will escape the boats, or some dolphins will get away as a pod is separated, successfully evading death or a life of imprisonment., However, more often than not, the entire family unit is driven into the killing cove – multiple generations wiped out in a single hunt.

Once the dolphins are netted within the cove, their fate is sealed. The captive selection and slaughter process commences.

When the Academy Award-winning movie “The Cove” was filmed, the dolphins were killed by spear thrusts. This resulted in a massive amount of blood spilling into the water, turning the cove from a peaceful blue to blood red.

More recently, in an effort to reduce the amount of blood spilled into the water and into the sight of the world, the hunters use a killing technique known as “pithing.”

A metal rod is hammered into the spinal cord of the dolphins, causing paralysis.

The dolphins are still conscious, breathing and struggling as they watch their families slowly die. In the case of larger pods, a blood-filled cove is still seen and documented by the Cove Guardians.  Simultaneously, the dolphin trainers are taking part in the live capture process; here we are shown the direct, bloody link between the mass dolphin killings and the captive industry.

The dolphins chosen for the entertainment industry are transported via skiff and sling either to captive sea pens in Taiji Harbor, or straight to Taiji Dolphin Base, Dolphin Resort Hotel or Taiji Whale Museum.

The dolphin hunters then tether the flukes of the remaining dolphins – sometimes several dolphins at once – in order to control and maneuver the dolphins. The panicked animals are then dragged onto the shallow and rocky shore or tethered to the cliff edge.

It has been documented that some dolphins and small whales have taken more than thirty minutes to die. The dolphins struggle in a pool of their own blood and the blood of their families, slowly suffocating and internally bleeding. On several occasions, Cove Guardians have documented dolphins still struggling as their bodies are tethered to skiffs and dragged to the butcher house. This method of killing is far from humane, despite claims from Taiji Fishermen’s Union and Japanese government officials.

The Captive Industry

Death is only the beginning of the suffering for dolphins captured in Taiji.  Taiji, Japan is “ground zero” for the international slave trade of live dolphins.

The captive industry has become a billion-dollar worldwide trade, with all money made from the exploitation, imprisonment and lifelong suffering of these sentient beings.  It is arguable that the dolphin drive hunts would not even take place if it weren’t for the amount of money made from the lucrative sales of live dolphins. The dolphin drive hunt itself as an operation is expensive. The dolphin hunters make approximately $32,000 USD for each live dolphin they capture.  These figures can skyrocket from $32,000 USD up to $250,000 USD for a trained captive dolphin.

The captive dolphin entertainment industry and the dolphin drive hunt in Taiji are directly and inextricably linked. Buy a ticket to a marine park and you are supporting the slaughter of these innocent, sentient beings.  Supporting a live dolphin show or participating in a confined swim-with-dolphin program anywhere in the world is the same as killing a dolphin in Taiji. 

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians have documented that it is the dolphin entertainment industry that drives the hunt. Well-intentioned marine mammal trainers and members of the dolphin show-viewing public all have the blood of innocent dolphins on their hands.

For the dolphins stolen from their families and sold into captivity, life is beyond unbearable. The dolphins born into a life of captivity exist in prison-like conditions and never know their own ocean.

It is now illegal in the United States to import a dolphin that has been caught in the wild; therefore the captive-bred dolphin business has exploded. One must wonder how many of the so-called captive bred dolphins imported into the US each year are actually wild-caught.  Even the captive-bred dolphins most likely have close ancestors who were captured in Taiji.

The global aquarium industry’s link to the killing of dolphins and small whales in Taiji is undeniable and unavoidable.  Taiji is the international hub for dolphin capture and slaughter.   Read more…


Evidence shows that whale and dolphin hunting has occurred within the area for centuries, however the practice of dolphin “drive hunting” developed in the 1970s. It is argued by the dolphin hunters of Taiji that this form of commercial hunting is an ancient practice; however that simply is not true. The practice of drive hunting is not even as old as some of the men who practice it.

Humans place importance on “culture” and old customs – Japan is particularly wedded to this ideal.  However, the fact that a practice has been going on for a long time does not make it right; nor does it give it special status to continue if it is found to be morally wrong.  Human slavery is a strong example of something that occurred for a very long time in human history and has since been determined to be wrong.  In the case of the drive hunting of cetaceans, though, there is not even a legitimate claim to antiquity.  To claim that the dolphin drive hunt is cultural is a lie. Taiji’s drive hunt emerged in the 1970s, just as the global aquarium industry was beginning to boom. The hunt is continued for one reason only – greed.   Read more…

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