Taiji, the tiny Japanese fishing village where thousands of dolphins have been savagely killed over the past 50 years, has announced plans to build a marine mammal park where visitors can swim with Minke whales and bottlenose dolphins, reports Jiji Press news agency.
The plan is to open the project by 2017 after negotiating with pearl farmers who operate in the same water.
As depicted in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, fishermen lure between 1,500 and 2,000 dolphins into the shallows of the cove and separate out the ones deemed worthy of selling to an aquarium. The rest are harpooned and slaughtered, their meat sold in supermarkets.
“I think it is a desperate act on part of the town council,” says Mark Palmer, in an exclusive interview with TakePart. He is the Associate Director of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project. “It is a desperate ploy by the Taiji city council to get away from their heritage of blood.”
Put forth by the town’s council, the plan calls for a large net to cordon off roughly 28 hectares of Moriura Bay.
“It is a different inlet than where the fishermen currently kill the dolphins,” says Palmer.
In theory, visitors could be swimming with dolphins in one part of Taiji's waters, while around the corner and out of sight behind a steep seaside cliff, fishermen could be slaughtering other dolphins.
During the 2011-2012 hunting season in Taiji—which ended a full four weeks sooner than expected—roughtly 786 dolphins were killed. This is roughly 400 fewer than last season, when the kill count was 1,190. In the 2009-2010 season, 1,336 dolphins died. In 2008-2009, 1,484 lost their lives.
Palmer cited several reasons as to why the park will most likely never see the light of day.
“The oyster ranchers who have been there for a long time are not going to be terribly keen on being usurped by a silly dolphin park,” he says.
He also noted that Minke whales have never been successfully kept in captivity.
Lastly, says Palmer, the bay “would need to be dredged, as it is way too shallow to house this type of park.” An engineering project on this scale is not economically feasible, he contends.
Should Taiji be allowed to open a dolphin-friendly, marine mammal park?
An Angelino by way of Wilkes-Barre, PA, Sal holds a Political Science degree from George Washington University. Though he began his career in sports, he's written about all things environment since 2007. @SalCardoni | Email Sal