Dolphin drive hunting is a method of hunting dolphins and occasionally other small cetaceans, such as pilot and minke whales. Hunters drive the animals into a bay or onto a beach with their boats, their escape is then prevented by closing off the route to the open sea or ocean with boats and nets. This method of hunting is highly controversial and has been criticised internationally. Dolphins are hunted this way in several places around the world, with the largest number of dolphins hunted using this method in Japan, where dolphins are mostly hunted for their meat. Some are captured and end up in dolphinariums around the world, and many thousands of dolphins are barbarically murdered in drive hunts each year. Additionally, there are possible health risks due to the extremely high levels of mercury and cadmium in the meat.
The Japanese town of Taiji on the Kii Peninsula is the largest scale drive hunting town in Japan with around 2,400 cetaceans being killed each year. 23,000 are killed annually throughout Japan! These figures are open to debate as Japan tends to greatly under-estimate their catch. For example, they were found under-estimating their Bluefin tuna catch by 170,000 tonnes in the last twenty years!
In Japan, the hunting is done by a select group of fishermen. When a pod of dolphins has been spotted, they're driven into a bay by the fishermen who bang on metal rods in the water to scare and confuse them. When the dolphins are in the bay, it is quickly closed off with nets so the dolphins cannot escape. The dolphins are then systematically slaughtered. The method used in Taiji - the only place in Japan to currently do this - is called oikomi, where dolphins are rounded up into shallow water and harpooned one by one, swimming for days in their fellow pod-member's blood.
The release of 'The Cove' documentary in 2009 has had a direct affect on changing barbaric methods used by the fisherman in Taiji whereby the dolphins are now captured and put into cages to calm down over night. However, the following day the dolphins are caught one by one and killed, usually behind closed doors so that activists and the media can not see what is going on.
The Japanese government states that 'dolphins now may only be killed by driving a metal pin into their neck, which causes them to die within seconds'. This law is not enforced however and throat cutting and harpooning is still witnessed. The numbers of dolphins and other cetaceans that are being murdered in Taiji is rapidly decreasing due to international pressure. The hunting is no longer financially viable and the only reason fisherman can continue to hunt is because large dolphinariums around the world are buying wild dolphins for thousands of dollars. They buy them to perform at their parks and in so doing are not only sealing the fate of thousands of other dolphins to an inhumane death, but are also incarcerating wild animals and enslaving them to a fate dictated by the amusement of human beings. Through our presence and efforts in Taiji we hope to bring the slaughter to an end once and for all!