Japanese aquariums have agreed to stop buying dolphins captured in bloody slaughters near Taiji, a month after the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums threatened to expel its Japanese members unless they ended their business relationship with the town, according to The Asahi Shimbun. The infamous Taiji dolphin drives, in which dolphins are herded into a cove and killed for their meat, drew international ire after the 2009 award-winning documentary “The Cove” put a spotlight on the practice.
Most of the 63 aquariums and 89 zoos whose facilities belong to the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums said Wednesday they would no longer get dolphins from Taiji. The majority of the dolphins targeted in the Taiji hunts are slaughtered, however the most appealing ones are sold to aquariums for around $8,300 USD each, according to Reuters. Conservationists have argued that the dolphin trade keeps the dolphin hunts going.
"This momentous decision marks the beginning of the end for dolphin hunting in Japan," Sarah Lucas, the CEO of Australia for Dolphins, which has fought to end the Taiji dolphin hunts, said in a statement. “This decision, which stops Japanese aquariums demanding more Taiji dolphins, is a huge blow to the hunts.” Lucas said Japanese aquariums account for up to 40 percent of the demand for live Taiji dolphins. The others are sold overseas in China or the Middle East.
Australia for Dolphins filed a lawsuit against the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums in March, accusing the world’s largest zoo organization of being complicit in the Taiji dolphin slaughters. The international group had previously said the dolphin hunts were part of Japanese tradition dating back centuries, according to the Guardian.
It is estimated that more than 5,000 Taiji dolphins have been killed since 2010. Another 750 have been captured and sold to aquariums.