Town Lets Visitors Swim with, Eat Dolphins

Subject of scathing 2009 documentary

Protesters have responded with outrage to plans for a marine park next to the bloody waters of a dolphin-slaughtering bay in Taiji.     Photo: eZeePics Studio/Shutterstock

The Japanese town made infamous by the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove as the site of annual dolphin slaughters is planning to open a marine park next to Hatakejiri Bay, where dolphins are corralled and killed. The park will allow customers to swim or kayak alongside dolphins and small whales—and eat them afterward.

Officials of the town, Taiji, announced in the face of ongoing protests that they will not end the yearly killing of thousands of dolphins. Rather, they plan to string a net at the entrance of Moriura Bay to enclose roughly 69 acres as a Discovery Cove-like tourist attraction.

"This is part of Taiji’s long-term plan of making the whole town a park, where you can enjoy watching marine mammals while tasting various marine products, including whale and dolphin meat,” Masaki Wada, a town official, told The Japan Times.

Far from conceding to activist pressure after the graphic documentary The Cove showed audiences the slaughters up-close in 2009, Taiji hopes customer interaction with marine life will promote the distribution of whale- and dolphin-derived products.

“The whole plan is based on the concept that they can exploit dolphins and whales freely as their resource," says Nanami Kurasawa, the secretary general of Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network, "but the mammals don’t belong to Taiji.”

In 2012, town fishermen caught 1,277 dolphins, continuing a 400-year-old tradition of dolphin hunting. This season they are licensed to capture 2,026. At this rate, Taiji hopes to open the park within five years.

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