Letter to IMATA – STOP dolphin trainers participating in the cruel Taiji hunts now!

Sep 21, 2015 by afdadmin
An injured dolphin tries to escape during the captive selection process. Photo: Taken on 20/09/2015 by Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project

An injured dolphin tries to escape during the captive selection process. Photo: Taken on 20/09/2015 by Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project

Ms Linda Erb
International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA)

Via email: [email protected]

Dear Ms Erb,

Re: IMATA policy on Taiji dolphin hunts

I am writing on behalf of Australia for Dolphins (‘AFD’), a not-for-profit animal welfare organisation.

I write to express our concern that IMATA allows its members to directly participate in the cetacean drive hunts in Taiji, Japan. We hope that this might be a topic for board consideration in the lead-up to IMATA’s upcoming annual conference.

IMATA’s “Drive Fisheries Statement”[1] of 2013 outlines that: “A caregiver is welcomed by IMATA even if s/he participates in the selection and collection of live animals (in Taiji)”. IMATA trainers have indeed been photographed participating in the selection and collection of dolphins and pilot whales in Taiji.

We respectfully request that IMATA reconsiders this policy, and prohibits its members directly participating in the “captive selection” process in Taiji in future. We believe a change in policy is necessary because:

1)     The trainers, including IMATA trainers, who conduct the captive selection process in Taiji do not exercise a high level of respect and humanness for animals, as required by IMATA’s Code of Ethics.

The captive selection process in Taiji is inherently cruel. It involves the separation of (usually young female) dolphins from their calves and families using force.

The separation of the dolphins is so violent and rough that dolphins regularly drown or die from their injuries during the process (before the slaughters even begin). This is widely documented in recent video footage (which is readily available online) and by eyewitness accounts.

As you may be aware, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has recently determined that the captures in Taiji (as opposed to only the slaughters) are in violation of its Code of Ethics and Animal Welfare.

IMATA states in its Code of Ethics that: “As members of IMATA, each of us is committed to exercising the highest levels of respect and humaneness for all animals”.

The trainers who conduct the captive selection process in Taiji do not exhibit any respect or humaneness for the dolphins in their care. Therefore IMATA trainers should not be allowed to directly participate in this process.

2) The aquarium captures in which IMATA directly participates motivate the slaughters.

IMATA makes a clear declaration in its Drive Fisheries Statement: “IMATA strongly opposes the mass slaughter of whales and dolphins that occur in drive fisheries”.

We note IMATA’s statements that the Taiji hunts are for the purposes of “culture” and “pest control”, and are not motivated by the aquarium trade. We respectively submit that this is a misunderstanding of the issue.

The vast majority of profit made by the Taiji hunters comes from selling dolphins to aquariums. For example, in the 2013/14 season, 834 dolphins were slaughtered and sold for meat, and 158 were live-captured and sold to aquariums in Japan and overseas.[2] The average sale price for a dolphin carcass is around US$500, whereas in 2013 live dolphins sold in the range of $41,600 – $47,746.[3] This means that, on a conservative basis, profits from dolphin meat were in the vicinity of $400,000, compared to profits for live sales of $7 million.

In other words, live sales accounted for 95% of profits made from hunting dolphins in Taiji. The aquarium trade clearly provides a financial incentive for the dolphin hunts and, by directly participating in this aquarium trade, IMATA trainers are helping to perpetuate the hunts.

We therefore implore IMATA not to allow its trainers to participate in the aquarium captures in Taiji.

Next steps

It would be practical and easy for IMATA to prohibit its members from participating directly in the dolphin hunts in Taiji. If IMATA’s Code of Ethics is to carry any meaning, it is in fact incumbent on IMATA to ensure that its members are not directly involved in a captive selection process that involves animals routinely sustaining injuries and dying from mistreatment.

Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this request. Please do not hesitate to get in touch by email or on the telephone number below if AFD can be of assistance. Given that the hunting season in Taiji is underway, we would appreciate your timely response.

Yours sincerely,

Jordan Signature


Advocacy Director, Australia for Dolphins

[1] https://www.imata.org/drive_fisheries_statement

[2] http://www.ceta-base.com/drivefisheries.html

[3] https://www.thedodo.com/what-motivates-the-taiji-dolph-423453688.html