Fishermen in the traditional whaling town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, scrubbed Thursday’s kickoff of their annual hunt for dolphins, whales and other cetaceans due to an approaching typhoon off the Pacific coast.
"We’d like to head out to sea soon, but you just can’t beat a typhoon," Masayuki Miyoshi, deputy head of a local whaling association, said. The town was the focus of the controversial U.S. documentary "The Cove," which critically depicts the dolphin hunt there.
Cetacean hunting near Taiji is not subject to controls by the International Whaling Commission and the whalers are allowed to harvest through next spring based on a catch quota set by the central government.
Each year in early September, Japan opens season on dolphins, and today marks the start of the season in Taiji, a now notorious place for slaughtering cetaceans thanks to the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. And of course, activist Ric O’Barry is on the move. He delivered a petition to the US Embassy in Tokyo signed by 1.7 million people from 155 countries demanding an end to the hunt. The embassy wasn’t his first destination — the Japanese fisheries agency was. But death threats from a group known for violence kinda put a damper on that.
As reported by the AP, "The Japanese government allows a hunt of about 20,000 dolphins a year, and argues that killing them — and also whales — is no different from raising cows or pigs for slaughter. Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat and, even in Taiji, it is not consumed regularly.
Japanese researchers said Friday they had found high mercury levels in residents of the dolphin-hunting town of Taiji, featured in the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove”, but no cases of related illness.
The toxic heavy metal is concentrated in the food chain and can be absorbed by humans when they eat predator species such as dolphin, whose meat has been served in shops and, in the past, school lunches in Japan.
A survey of some 1,000 Taiji residents found high mercury levels in the hair of some, but found no-one who had fallen ill as a result, Koji Okamoto, the director of the National Institute for Minamata Disease.