Japan Zoos Holding Vote on Dolphins

Risk expulsion from world organization

If the Japanese zoos and aquariums vote no, they would cede access to the WAZA database and therefore have trouble importing rare animals from zoos and aquariums overseas. (James Burchill/Flickr)

Following the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) vote last month to suspend the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), the heads of the country’s aquariums will hold a vote next week to decide whether they want to remain as members of the global organization. JAZA was suspended for acquiring dolphins from Taiji, where hundreds of dolphins are killed every year in a mass hunt made infamous by the 2009 documentary The Cove.

The Guardian reports that if JAZA were to vote yes to remain part of WAZA, it would mean an end to buying live dolphins from Taiji. If the 152 JAZA zoos and aquariums vote no, they’ll be immediately expelled. A no vote would mean that Japanese zoos and aquariums would cede access to the WAZA database and therefore have trouble importing rare animals from zoos and aquariums overseas.

WAZA’s statement says that it attempted to negotiate a two-year moratorium on JAZA taking dolphins from the hunt, but JAZA rejected the idea. When the subject was broached again, “JAZA responded by proposing some guideline changes that would put restrictions on the method and capturing of dolphins and improving animal care, but because it did not restrict taking animals from the drive, WAZA Council concluded that a satisfactory agreement could not be reached and voted to suspend the Japanese organization’s membership,” the statement reads.

Only a small number of dolphins caught at Taiji are sold to aquariums. The vast majority are butchered and sold for their meat, according to The Guardian.

“We’re puzzled by WAZA’s announcement because we’ve been discussing the issues and we’ve taken WAZA’s advice on” improving capture methods, Kensho Nagai, executive director of JAZA, told the AFP. “We annually take about 20 dolphins from Taiji, but we have improved how we hunt, separating our hunt from everything else at Taiji that is for dolphin meat.”

JAZA has until next Thursday to respond to the suspension.

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