Article by Genevieve Wauchope for Australia for Dolphins.
Last month, delegates to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) met in Quito, Ecuador for the 11th Conference of Parties (COP 11). Over 900 delegates attended, a record for the CMS, which is an environmental treaty formed under the United Nations Environment Programme.
There were a number of positives to come out of the meeting, especially for sharks, birds, and marine animals affected by pollution – particularly plastic waste. The convention covered so many important issues that one could be forgiven for overlooking an incredibly significant development detailed in the delegate’s resolution.
On page three, amongst the acknowledgements section, the resolution clearly states there is an “increasing global concern for animal welfare in relation to the live capture, transport and keeping of cetaceans.”
The Quito Resolution makes reference to the18 countries that already have prohibitions on the live capture of dolphins. It calls upon member states of the convention that have not already done so, “to develop and implement national legislation – prohibiting the live capture of cetaceans from the wild for commercial purposes.”
The resolution’s explicit request for active discouragement of new live captures places even more international pressure on countries around the world that still practice live dolphin hunting, such as Japan, to stop the drive hunts. If nothing else, it shows that there is a recognised, science-based reason to stop the drive hunts that has been accepted by the international community – even to the level of a UN treaty.
Japan is not a party to the CMS, and the resolution alone won’t stop the horrors of the cove. But these developments show that there is a significant change in thinking around the intellectual and emotional capacity of cetaceans, and the importance of familial and social groups to the species ongoing health and survival.
The resolution sends a clear message that, even at the very highest levels, what goes under the tarps in Taiji is really not okay.
Historically, the drive hunts in Taiji have been largely excused on the basis of cultural importance – particularly around providing meat to the local community. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the real economic imperative for the hunts is to capture and sell live dolphins to theme parks.
There is no doubt about the cruelty of the capture process employed in Taiji. Dolphins, highly intelligent mammals, are forced to watch their families slaughtered in front of them. They are often injured and always traumatised by the methods of the hunt. For those who are sold into captivity, many of them are starved until they are taught to perform tricks for dead fish, and none of them will live in their ocean homes again.
The brutality of Taiji is supported by a million dollar industry. A number of varied approaches are required to end any highly profitable industry, particularly one that creates such intense emotional responses on both sides.
It will take a huge effort to end the slaughter. Progress is slow, but it is happening.
Growing dissatisfaction with SeaWorld and its treatment of orcas shows how strongly the community reacts to keeping intelligent, social animals like cetaceans in small tanks. This growing public concern can easily spill over to their smaller cousins, dolphins. Growing awareness, a mounting body of scientific evidence, and an international treaty supporting the end of live capture, will all help in putting an end to the horrors that occur in Taiji.
Organisations such as AFD are absolutely necessary to carry out the actions that will, hopefully, end the industry. Support from the UN can only help.
- Article by Genevieve Wauchope for Australia for Dolphins.