29 July 2013
In 2005, the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA) formalized its position on drive fisheries. The statement is clear: IMATA strongly opposes the mass slaughter of whales and dolphins that occur in drive fisheries, and is dedicated to advancing humane care of marine animals in zoological settings. Drive fisheries are a method of using both sound and boats to herd small dolphins and whales into shallow water along the shore. Their operation in Europe and Asia has been well documented for at least the past 650 years (Brownel, Jr., R. L., Nowacek, D. P., & Ralls, K., 2008) and they continue today in the Solomon Islands, Denmark, and Japan. The drive fishery in Taiji, Japan, is among the most widely documented and most controversial. Claims that international and Japanese aquariums are driving the demand for the Taiji drive fishery to continue are false. Most of the animals herded to shallow waters at Taiji are killed in a misguided attempt at ‘pest control’ by fishermen and harvested for food. Only a small number are sold to marine parks and aquariums, predominately those located in Asia.
While some oppose the collection of animals from drive fisheries for live sale, the practice is lawful in countries where some IMATA members live and work. In fact, some Japanese aquariums have no choice; internal Japanese regulations require that dolphins and small whales be acquired from the drive fisheries in Taiji. In contrast, many countries (including the United States, Canada, and those in Western Europe) ban the importation of dolphins collected from the drive fisheries in Japan.
IMATA is not an advocacy group; rather, it is a professional association of individual members committed to fostering the development of marine animal trainers.It is a non-profit, volunteer organization created by and for zoological professionals to advance the humane care of marine animals in zoological settings. The well-being of the animals in the daily care of IMATA members is their first priority. Any individual who believes in IMATA’s mission and who supports its goals is welcomed into the membership. This includes extending membership to individuals who work for organizations that acquire dolphins from a drive fishery. A caregiver is welcomed by IMATA even if s/he participates in the selection and collection of live animals on the premise that those animals will benefit as s/he is exposed to the most current best practices in animal care and training. This helps to ensure the well-being of animals living in zoological settings around the world.
IMATA strongly emphasizes the continuing education of frontline animal trainers. The organization provides a forum for thoughtful dialogue among a large, diverse, and growing international membership from varying cultures. Through an IMATA membership, trainers have access to a global network of training professionals, resources such as educational publications, and opportunities to attend IMATA’s professional meetings where the most current training information and research is discussed.
Extremist groups that oppose having any marine mammals in human care in zoos, aquariums, and marine parks target IMATA by using misinformation and emotional appeal for funding support, often through social media campaigns. Concerning drive fisheries, these groups erroneously claim that most dolphins in marine parks worldwide were purchased from Taiji’s drive fishery, and furthermore allege that IMATA is directly responsible for the slaughter because some of our members work for organizations that house dolphins from the drive. As part of their campaign, these groups call on IMATA to ‘blacklist’ these trainers from those facilities that acquire animals from drives. We reject this request as manipulative and ill informed, and IMATA stands by its goal to help every professional trainer continually improve his or her skills in caring for marine mammals.
As animal care and training practices advance IMATA is positioned to motivate, educate, and provide expertise for the best animal care and training practices to an ever growing number of professionals throughout the world.
For more detailed information about IMATA, detailed facts about drive fisheries, and information on how you can get involved, please visit IMATA's drive fisheries frequently asked questions at www.imata.org/drive_fisheries_faq.
Brownell, Jr., R. L., Nowacek, D. P., & Ralls, K. (2008). Hunting cetaceans with sound: a worldwide review. (Paper No. 94). Retrieved from Publications, Agencies, and Staff of the U.S. Department of Commerce website: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/usdeptcommercepub/94