You may be aware that in 2010 the Australian government took legal action against Japan in the International Court of Justice on behalf of large whales being killed by Japan’s whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean.
Dolphins are, in fact, small whales. The legal situation with small whales (including dolphins) is different to that of large whales. However, Australia for Dolphins is exploring whether potential avenues for the legal blocking of whaling also exist in relation to Japan’s coastal dolphin hunts.
Dolphins deserve the same legal protections against cruel treatment as other animals but – for no good reason - they fall through the cracks at both the international and national levels.
At the international level, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) protects large whales (humpback, minke and fin whales) to an extent. It has banned commercial whaling, and allows Japan to catch only a limited number of whales for "scientific" purposes (of course, Japan’s lethal "research" program is widely considered to be a fraudulent pretext for commercial whaling).
Small whales such as dolphins, on the other hand, are not protected by the IWC, as pro-whaling countries argue that the IWC does not have jurisdiction over small species of whale.
At the national level, many countries have legislation to protect dolphins, but in Japan they once again fall through the cracks. There is animal welfare legislation in Japan to minimise pain and suffering for farm, laboratory and domesticated animals, and there is also legislation to protect wild animals. However, wild marine mammals, including dolphins, are treated not as animals, but as “fishing resources”. They are managed by the Japanese Fisheries Agency, which allows hundreds of dolphins to be slaughtered annually with no regard for their welfare in the capture or slaughter process.
Over the past few years, AFD has been working with a global law firm and a Japanese law firm to develop a legal case challenging the legality of the Taiji dolphin hunts. This would be a tough legal action to win but, if successful, it could bring an end to the Taiji hunts altogether.
Having already won a legal action in the Japanese courts against the Taiji Whale Museum, AFD now has enough experience of the Japanese legal system to give this our best shot. We are currently trying to raise funding to bring the case.
If you would like to help, please sign up as a Dolphin Defender today – and help create a brighter future for Taiji dolphins.