by Richard O'Barry
Japan already has 50 aquariums and zoos that exhibit dolphins, and another one, The Kyoto Aquarium, is being planned for Midori no Yakata (Green Palace) in Umekouji Park, Kyoto City.
Each one of the already existing captive dolphin facilities echo the same propaganda: "The public display of dolphins promotes environmental conservation and teaches respect for nature." Sounds reasonable to some, but where is the evidence to substantiate the claim?
50 Japanese dolphinariums translate into hundreds of millions of visitors who have visited these facilities in the last 50 years. According to theory, these visitors have all been "educated" and are now going to help save the dolphins. Now consider this: More than 20,000 dolphins are slaughtered in the most brutal way imaginable every year in Japan. Not a single one of the visitors of these existing dolphin facilities is doing anything to stop massacre. Neither are any of dolphin trainers, veterinarians, scientists and businessmen who run the 50 facilities.
So what exactly is the point of building a new captive dolphin facility in Kyoto?
As we know, the killing of dolphins is kept secret from the public by the government of Japan with elaborate censorship of the media and local and state enforcement officers keeping people from filming the slaughter. Furthermore, as Save Japan Dolphins Coalition has documented, the captures of wild dolphins for the captivity industry helps subsidize the slaughter, as far more money is paid to the dolphin killers for live “show quality” dolphins than for dead dolphins for their meat. A dolphin is ripped from its family and friends, which are left behind to be brutally killed, as it is shipped off to an aquarium. Obviously, Japan’s aquarium industry will never voluntarily tell this dolphin horror story to the public!
Three Japanese environmental groups -- Elsa Nature Conservancy (a member of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition), The Institute of Biodiversity and The Japan Environmental Exchange -- are working hard trying to educate the Japanese public in an effort to stop the annual dolphin slaughter. They are also warning the public about the dangers of consuming dolphin meat. Japanese scientists report that the dolphin meat contains higher levels of mercury than the fish which killed hundreds of citizens in Minamata 50 years ago. None of the Japanese aquariums and zoos that exhibit dolphins are doing anything to educate their visitors about these urgent issues.
Having captured and trained dolphins in the past, I know where the promoters on the proposed Kyoto-project are coming from: I used to come from the same place. In consequence, I know that the Kyoto Aquarium will never be able to tell the public the truth about the violent and deadly dolphin captures that take place in Japan. If they did, the paying public would be outraged. In other words: They wouldn't buy a ticket.
Kyoto is held in high regard as a place one visits to see magnificent sacred temples and as a place that respects nature. A captive dolphin facility is a contradiction to Kyoto's efforts to promote the city as environmentally friendly. By saying NO to the proposed Kyoto Aquarium and the captive dolphin industry, Kyoto would be sending a powerful positive message to the rest of the world about Kyoto’s respect for nature.
Public opinion on this subject is shifting dramatically as people learn more of the facts. Many dolphinariums have closed, and many new projects have been abandoned under the weight of public protest. Laws have been enacted in some jurisdictions banning the capture of dolphins in territorial waters.
We sincerely hope the decision makers in Kyoto will soon realize that displaying captive dolphins in Kyoto has no value. Keeping Kyoto "dolphin friendly" has more international public relations value than having a captive dolphin program.
The proposed captive dolphinarium in Kyoto is just one of the places the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition is working to stop or shut down. We have made some progress on this front, but many places around the world continue to push building these aquariums and “swim-with-dolphins” tourist attractions. We will keep you informed on this website about our campaigns to stop or close down these dolphin prisons.
Thanks for your continuing support to stop the killing of Japan’s dolphins and to protect dolphins everywhere.