Melon-headed whales killed in Japan dolphin hunting season

Melon-headed whales killed in Japan dolphin hunting season
Melon-headed whales, photo: Canva

“Dozens of melon-headed whales were driven into the Cove, about 17 were killed,” animal rights activist Kunito Seko, who is documenting the dolphin hunt in the village of Taiji in Japan, said on Friday.

In videos shared by Seko, the melon-headed whale dolphins -part of the dolphin family- are frantically trying to escape the nets they’re driven into. One of the whales is seen with a rope around his tail tied to a boat.

Taiji is the only village in Japan where dolphin drive hunting -a method of driving dolphins together with boats and then into a bay- still takes place on a large scale, as featured in the 2010 documentary The Cove.

Every year, the Japan Fisheries Agency allows dolphin hunting from September 1 to March 1. Dolphin hunters lure large numbers of dolphins into a bay and then either capture -captured dolphins are sold to aquariums and marine parks- or kill them for their meat.

“The capture of dolphins in Taiji is carried out by about 26 fishermen, and the dolphins are legally killed according to permits from the government,” marine protection organization Dolphin Project said on their website.

In the 2021/2022 hunting season, almost 500 dolphins were killed, according to Dolphin Project. 

Japan approved the killing of a total of 1849 dolphins for this season: 450 striped dolphins, 300 melon-headed whales, 298 bottlenose dolphins, 280 pantropical spotted dolphins, 251 Risso’s dolphins and 101 short-finned pilot whales are among the dolphins that are allowed to be killed.

So far, Dolphin Project said that a total of 84 dolphins had been slaughtered: 56 Risso’s dolphins, 11 pilot whales and around 17 melon-headed whales on Friday. Nine bottlenose dolphins were taken captive. 

“Throughout these drives, dolphins of all ages have been observed with injuries and have suffered greatly,” Dolphin Project added.

Seko regularly posts graphic images and videos showing the results of the dolphin hunting season. A week ago, he posted a video of 10 Risso’s dolphins being driven into the cove and killed. The bay is often referred to as Red Cove due to the dolphin’s blood that colors the area red.  

“Despite worldwide protests and the public’s response to documentaries like The Cove and Blackfish, there is still a strong captive dolphin trade, especially in Japan and China, that purchases dolphins from the Taiji hunters annually,” the International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) said.

“Captive dolphins bring far more money to Taiji dolphin hunters than dolphins slaughtered for meat,” IMMP added.

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