Something Fishy on Valentine’s Day: Dolphin Love

Environmental activists doning dolphin costumes sit under nets during a protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Manila on October 14, 2010, against the annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. Every year, fishermen in Taiji herd about 2,000 dolphins into a shallow bay, select several dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks and harpoon the rest for meat. Taiji, located on the western Japanese peninsula of Kii, has drawn worldwide attention after a US documentary film, 'The Cove', which described the slaughter of dolphins there, won an Oscar for best documentary this year. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Mike Magner
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Mike Magner
Feb. 13, 2014, 5:40 p.m.

Con­ser­va­tion­ists are mak­ing waves on Valentine’s Day with demon­stra­tions in sev­en U.S. cit­ies, in­clud­ing Wash­ing­ton, to protest the ritu­al killing of dol­phins in Taiji, Ja­pan.

The “World Love for Dol­phins Day” events are or­gan­ized by the Sea Shep­herd Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety, which first ex­posed Ja­pan­ese fish­er­men cor­ralling and slaughter­ing dol­phins in 2003. The group, based in Wash­ing­ton state’s Pu­get Sound, has been mon­it­or­ing and protest­ing the an­nu­al dol­phin roundups ever since, in­clud­ing send­ing out live streams of the hunt in a cove at Taiji last month.

The U.S. protests, all start­ing at noon loc­al time, are planned in Den­ver, Hou­s­ton, Los Angeles, New York, San Fran­cisco, Seattle, and Wash­ing­ton. (D.C.’s will be out­side the Ja­pan­ese Em­bassy on Mas­sachu­setts Av­en­ue.)

Ja­pan­ese of­fi­cials de­fend dol­phin hunt­ing as a long-held tra­di­tion in Taiji, on the Pa­cific coast south­w­est of Tokyo. “Dol­phin is not covered by the In­ter­na­tion­al Whal­ing Com­mis­sion con­trol, and it’s con­trolled un­der re­spons­ib­il­ity of each coun­try,” Ja­pan’s chief Cab­in­et sec­ret­ary, Yoshi­hide Suga, said at a Jan. 22 news con­fer­ence.

Sea Shep­herd act­iv­ists mon­it­or­ing the sev­en-month hunt­ing sea­son start­ing in Septem­ber say they have doc­u­mented the deaths of hun­dreds of dol­phins, which are sold for food in Ja­pan­ese coastal com­munit­ies. Some dol­phins are cap­tured alive and sold to aquar­i­ums around the world.

The group’s Melissa Se­hgal, who wit­nessed the hunt in Janu­ary, told re­port­ers that fish­er­men try to hide what they are do­ing, but “you can hear the dol­phins splash­ing be­low” while their spin­al cords are be­ing stabbed.

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