This win for dolphins follows legal action by Australia for Dolphins, which led the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to suspend its Japanese member due to involvement in the hunts last month.
Not long after Australia for Dolphins’ lawsuit was launched, WAZA gave its Japanese member an ultimatum: stop the live capture of dolphins from Taiji by 21st May 2015, or be expelled.
Rather than risk being isolated from the global zoo network, Japan’s peak zoo body (JAZA) voted to stop buying dolphins from the hunts. As the economic incentive for the hunts is the live capture for the aquarium trade, this deals the drive hunts a significant blow.
It could well be that the 99 members of JAZA that voted against dolphin hunting did so because they did not want to surrender the perks of being a member of a global zoo body. The benefits include international exchange of animals, participation in breeding programs and access to global data.
However, attitudes to dolphin captivity in Japan have also changed.
Japanese newspaper The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that one zoo director said: “I think the time has come for aquariums to also change their way of thinking.”
Another zoo official at a Chubu aquarium said the fundamental nature of aquariums had been thrown into question.
The positive outcome for dolphins was announced following a board meeting of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) in Tokyo today.
“We are absolutely delighted to hear Japanese zoos and aquariums have voted to uphold international animal welfare standards and stop purchasing Taiji dolphins,” states the CEO of Australia for Dolphins, Sarah Lucas.
“JAZA aquariums provide up to 40% of total demand for live dolphins from Taiji. So, as of today, the market for Taiji dolphins could be nearly cut in half,” states Ms. Lucas. “This significant decision marks the beginning of the end for dolphin hunting in Japan.”
Despite this success, Lucas insists Australia for Dolphins will continue legal action against WAZA, which represents an international community of 1300 zoos and aquariums.
“Unfortunately there are other WAZA members that have purchased dolphins and whales from Taiji and other inhumane hunts.”
“We’re asking the association to enforce its Code of Ethics and Animal Welfare proactively across the board. We want to make sure no WAZA member, from anywhere in the world, can purchase a dolphin from Taiji or other cruel hunts ever again.”
The next hearing in the ongoing court action will take place in Switzerland in June.
In the meantime, this momentous victory for dolphins can be celebrated – it’s been a long time coming.