Deadly Dolphin Capture in Futo

Our team was there to document it when, in October 2004, more than 100 Risso‚s dolphins were captured by the fishermen in Taiji, Japan. Divers from the dolphin captivity industry forced the dolphins ashore, selected their pick of dolphins and let the fishermen kill the rest. Now the same tragedy has struck again, this time in Futo.

On November 11th, the fishermen of this small fishing village, located along the coastline of the Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka prefecture, drove a large pod of bottlenose dolphins into Futo harbor. The following day, members of the dolphin captivity industry, aided by the fishermen, used deadly methods to choose the best-looking dolphins for their facilities.

No dolphins killed in Futo since 1999

The dolphin-killing season in Futo starts each year on September 1st. In October 1999 Futo became the center of controversy when the town‚s fishermen captured some 70 bottlenose dolphins. While most of the dolphins were killed and butchered, some were sold to the marine mammal park industry. The massacre caused an international uproar, and due to the media attention and the outcry from the international animal welfare community and its supporters, no dolphins were killed in Futo between 1999 and 2004.

Dolphinariums encourage the fishermen to resume the dolphin hunt

But this year several Japanese dolphinariums had placed an order for young bottlenose dolphins. When, in mid October, we met with Mr. Suzuki, Chairman of Ito Fishing Cooperative Futo Branch, he told us that he had every intention of responding positively to the order. He further stated that some of the dolphins would be butchered for human consumption and at least one killed for „research purposes.‰  

Hiding their activities

Just this year, we have spent more than two months in remote fishing villages of Japan. We have focused our efforts on monitoring, documenting and exposing the cruel dolphin hunts to the Japanese public and the rest of the world. The fishermen that carry out these hunts hide from our cameras, and we have good reason to believe that it was out of fear of being filmed that they did not leave the harbor throughout the entire time we were on patrol in Futo, monitoring their activities from crack of dawn till nightfall.

The capture succeeded

But on November 11th, exactly one day after we had departed Japan, a fleet of boats left Futo harbor at sunrise and in the afternoon drove some 100 bottlenose dolphins into the harbor. The fishermen sealed the harbor with a net to make sure none of the dolphins could flee. They would not allow anyone access to the area and blocked it with ropes and metal bars. As a further precaution, guards were stationed by the harbor the entire night.

Sakae Hemmi of Elsa Nature Conservancy, who works together with One Voice and Earth Island Institute to stop the dolphin massacres in Japan, immediately traveled to Futo to document the capture, and the following account is based on her observations.

14 dolphins sentenced to life-long imprisonment

The large pod of dolphins captured on November 11th was locked up in Futo harbor the entire night. The next morning several divers from six Japanese dolphinariums arrived on the scene to choose their pick of dolphins. With the fishermen's help, the divers yanked 19 dolphins out of the water and, in a process characterized by total chaos, selected 14 dolphins that fulfilled the preferred criteria for use in commercial captive dolphin swim programs and dolphin shows.

A blood-red sea of panic-stricken dolphins

Shortly after the fishermen and dolphin handlers had begun the process of dragging dolphins out of the water, Futo harbor turned red with blood. Many of the dolphins were helplessly caught in the capture nets and in their struggles to get free sustained injuries and broken limbs.

„I think that several of the injured dolphins died and sank to the bottom of the sea,‰ said Hemmi.

Cause of death: „Capture shock‰

One dolphin had a transmitter attached to it and was plunked back into the blood-red water. The transmitter was enormous and Hemmi expressed doubts that the dolphin will be able to survive, having to carry such a heavy piece of equipment. Another of the dolphins seized from the water died from shock. The fishermen butchered the dolphin for „research‰ and human consumption, along with three other dolphins that the dolphinariums didn‚t want.

The slaughter tent was covered up with blue tarp, and Hemmi was unable to obtain footage of the butchering process. But the day after the capture she saw fishermen leave the slaughterhouse carrying bucket-loads of bloody dolphin meat.  

Hiding the truth from the rest of the world

The fishermen did all they could to make sure that no one could videotape and photograph the capture. ‰All the paths leading to the harbor were blocked, and the fishermen and local police were guarding the dolphins constantly, to prevent anyone from videotaping the violent scene. No one was allowed to take pictures of the sea, not even from the street. The fishermen were angry and seemed very nervous,‰ Hemmi reported.

An entire pod of bottlenose dolphins destroyed

The selection process went on for more than four hours. At 1:20 PM the fishermen finally removed the nets and began to drive the remaining dolphins out of the harbor by banging repeatedly on 12-foot iron poles submerged in the water.  „But even after they removed the nets, the sea remained red with blood,‰ Hemmi said.

The Fishing Cooperative and local newspapers later reported that 80 dolphins had been released, but an eyewitness has put this number into question, saying that the number of dolphins released appeared to be far less. Regardless of the exact number of dolphins not butchered or chosen by marine mammal parks, many pressing questions remain unanswered: How many of the babies that were let go had lost their mothers during the capture? How many of the dolphins were in such a state of shock that they simply couldn't find their back out to the open sea? And how many had been inflicted with injuries so serious that they had no chance of survival?

Based on Hemmi's detailed account, we suspect that several of the dolphins that were let go did not make it.

Butchering the dolphins that had died during the capture

During the night of November 12th, Hemmi noticed that some of the fishing boats spent a couple of hours moving around in the port, illuminating the sea with powerful flashlights. It appeared that they were searching for dolphins that had died during the capture and had sunk to the bottom of the sea. We suspect that they were successful at retrieving these dead dolphins, and that they cut them into pieces in the slaughterhouse.

An adult and a baby killed

A local newspaper has reported that there were young babies in the pod, and on November 13th Hemmi received information that one adult dolphin and a baby had been found floating on the surface of the water. They, too, must have been butchered and processed into meat.

The evidence is mounting

With this recent dolphin capture, there is a great risk that Futo will follow in the footsteps of Taiji and become a supplier of dolphins for Zoos and Aquaria in Japan and abroad. We view the capture as yet another piece of evidence that some members of the dolphin captivity industry are a supporting factor in the Japanese dolphin hunts. A live dolphin sold to aquaria brings in much more money than does a dead dolphin processed into meat for human consumption. It appears that, by placing an order for dolphins from Futo, the dolphinariums enticed the fishermen to resume a practice they had not carried out in five years.

Says Ric O‚Barry, Marine Mammal Specialist with One Voice: „The high value of dolphins for public display has added a new, high value driver to a despicable industry that would otherwise discontinue."

What you can do


We need your help to continue our work. Support our efforts to stop the dolphin captures and massacres in Japan by making a donation here: http://www.earthisland.org/saveTaijiDolphins/contribute.html

Worldwide protests are needed to put a stop to these deadly captures. We need to flood the authorities with letters. Please write a letter TODAY.

Let the authorities know how shocked you are at this cruel dolphin capture.

Urge them to never again allow such dolphin captures to take place in Japan in the future.

Send your letter to :  

Fisheries Section of Shizuoka prefecture: Fax:+81-54-221-3288
E-mail: webmaster@pref.shizuoka.jp

Mr. Yoshinobu Ishikawa, Governor of Shizuoke prefecture: Fax:+81-54-221-2164
E-mail: webmaster@pref.shizuoka.jp

Ito Fishing Cooperative: Fax:+81-557-35-0756
Email: ito@soitoshigyokyo.jf-net.ne.jp

Ito Fishing Cooperative Futo Branch: Fax:+81-557-51-1139

Other useful addresses :

Izu Tourist Facilities Council is one ofthe local tourism agencies.
Email: izukanko@i-younet.ne.jp

Let them know they are losing tourists as a result of the recent dolphin capture.  

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Email: webmaster@mofa.go.jp

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Email: white56@maff.go.jp

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Email: webmail@meti.go.jp

The Prime Minister of Japan
Email: kanteihp-info@cas.go.jp

Asahi Newspaper
Email: feedback@asahi.com

Yomiuri Newspaper
Email: webmaster@yomiuri.co.jp

Mainichi Newspaper
Email: mdn@mbx.mainichi.co.jp

Nihon Keizai Newspaper
Email: ecntct@nikkei.co.jp

Sangyo Keizai Newspaper
Email: webmaster@sankei.co.jp

Send a copy of your letter to the aquariums that participated in this capture :

Enoshima Aquarium
E-mail: youko@enoshima-aquarium.co.jp
Phone:  +81-466-29-9960
2-19-1 Katasekaigan, Fujisawa, Kanagawa, Japan

Awashima Marinepark
E-mail: info@marinepark.jp
186 Uchiurashigedera, Numaza, Shizuoka, Japan 410-0221
Phone:  +81-55-941-3126
FAX:  +81-55-943-2238
(Tokyo Office)
3-4SC Bldg. 2F, Yotsuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Phone:  +81-3-3350-6577
FAX:  +81-3-3350-7371

Shinagawa Aquarium
E-mail: info@aquarium.gr.jp
3-2-1 Katsushima, Shinagawa, Tokyo
Phone: +81-3-3762-3433
FAX:  +81-3-3762-3436

Marineroad Dolphin Fantasy
E-mail: info@dolphin-fantasy.com
2-4-14 Arai, Ito, Shizuoka, Japan 414-0043
Phone: +81-557-36-6237
FAX: +81-557-38-1745

Shimoda Aquarium
E-mail: info@shimoda-aquarium.com
3-22-31 Shimoda, Shizuoka, Japan 415-8502
Phone: +81-558-22-3567
FAX: +81-558-22-3831

Hosaka Marine Projects/Dolphin Beach (facility inside
Shimoda Aquarium)

No e-mail address available
3-22-31 Shimoda, Shizuoka, Japan 415-8502
Phone/Fax: 0558-27-2770

This report was written on behalf of the One Voice/Earth Island Institute/Elsa Nature Conservancy Coalition.
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