What is a drive fishery?
A drive fishery is a method of herding small dolphins and whales by using both sound and boats into shallow water. This centuries-old method is used to hunt small dolphins and whales for their meat and/or teeth and, in some cases, to reduce the number of dolphins and whales that fishermen believe compete with them for fish.
Why do drive fisheries exist?
Drive fisheries involving dolphins and whales is a centuries-old practice, sustained today through a combination of historical, economic, political, and cultural influences. Fishermen in many parts of the world have independently developed this method. In Asia and Europe, it is well documented and understood that drive fisheries have operated to catch small cetaceans for food for at least the past 650 years. (Brownel, Jr., R. L., Nowacek, D. P., & Ralls, K., 2008).
The Japanese drive fisheries are rooted in more than 500 years of culture and tradition, with many small villages hunting dolphins and whales for food. Local fishermen have also used the drives as a means of ‘predator control’, because they believe the dolphins are eating the same fish that the fishermen seek for a sustainable human food supply.
What is IMATA’s stance on the killing of dolphins and whales in drive fisheries?
IMATA strongly opposes the mass slaughter of whales and dolphins that occur in drive fisheries. Our members are dedicated to advancing the humane care of marine animals in zoological settings around the world. While not a political or advocacy organization, IMATA has had a long, clear, and definitive position opposing the killing of marine mammals. The slaughter that occurs in these drives is also opposed by all international zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. For more information on IMATA's stance on the killing of dolphins and whales in drive fisheries, please click here.
Can any animal trainer join IMATA, even if they care for and train animals collected from a drive fishery?
Yes. IMATA is committed to accepting into its membership any animal trainer interested in progressive learning who promotes improved animal care. The advancements in marine animal care throughout IMATA's 40-year history are a testament to this approach in successfully affecting change. To do otherwise would constitute a failure of the organization to meet its responsibility to the animals.
Some groups have recently made a call for IMATA to ‘blacklist’ trainers, whose facilities have purchased or acquired animals from a Japanese drive fishery. Why hasn’t IMATA done this?
It is important to remember that IMATA is not an advocacy group, but instead is a professional association of individual members committed to fostering the education and development of marine animal trainers. Groups making these demands are unfairly trying to politicize IMATA’s mission and work, and their demands are not in the best interest of animals cared for in zoological parks and aquariums.
IMATA is a nonprofit, 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 means that if an individual works for an organization that acquires dolphins from a drive fishery, up to and including participating in the selection and collection of live animals, s/he is welcomed by IMATA. We uphold this policy because to deny a trainer membership and the opportunity to improve his or her skills could ultimately be detrimental to the animals. Animals benefit under the care of IMATA members who share the most current best animal care and training practices to ensure the well-being of animals living in zoological settings around the world.
I read that IMATA opposes the drive fishery, but what action are trainers taking to stop them?
IMATA believes that thoughtful dialogue on a challenging subject like commercial whaling (specifically drive fisheries) is important between people of different cultures. It is a positive way to make changes that eventually benefit marine animals. Through an IMATA membership, trainers have access to a network of professionals continually working to improve training and care techniques. Members also have access to educational publications and can attend our professional meetings where the latest training information is discussed. The well-being of marine mammals is the first priority of IMATA members, who are dedicated trainers at parks and aquariums around the world. These trainers care deeply about the whales, dolphins, sea lions and other marine mammals they interact with every day.
Additionally, IMATA often coordinates with other like-minded organizations such as the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums which contacts U.S. government officials urging them to use their relationships with the Japanese government to oppose the mass slaughter that occurs in drive fisheries. A statement on the IMATA Internet site reiterates our strong position against the mass slaughter in drive fisheries. As part of our mission, IMATA continually raises public awareness on the many issues that threaten marine mammals and their ocean habitats, and we seek to engage the public in making changes that will protect the animals.
By removing animals from the drive fisheries for public display, aren't aquariums essentially perpetuating the dolphin hunt?
Claims that international and Japanese aquariums are driving the demand for the Taiji drive fishery to continue are false. Most of the animals herded at Taiji are killed in what many consider a misguided attempt at ‘pest control’ by fishermen, and they are harvested for food. Only a small number of animals are spared, those that are sold to marine parks and aquariums, predominately located in Asia. If not for live sale, these animals would likely be killed as pests as well.
If no aquariums in the United States have dolphins from drive fisheries, then where do U.S. dolphins come from?
The majority – 80 percent -- of dolphins on display in the United States were born in aquariums and zoological parks. This is due to increasingly successful breeding programs and the high quality of animal care provided by trainers, keepers, and veterinarians.
What can I do to stop the slaughter of dolphins in drive fisheries?
Individuals who share our concerns and who want the cruel slaughter of dolphins and whales to stop can write to the Prime Minister of Japan at: http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/forms/comment.html as well as the Japanese Ambassador in Washington, D.C., at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can I do to help dolphins in the wild?
See and learn more about marine animals in zoological parks and aquariums, and support your local park or aquarium’s conservation and wildlife protection projects, programs, and research efforts. Such efforts are possible only because of the children and adults who visit these facilities and whose participation helps support marine conservation projects. Educational programs help visitors become more aware of the important role they play in this team effort.
If you encounter a marine mammal in the wild, do not feed it or try to interact with it. Attempting to interact with a wild animal not only compromises your safety, it also jeopardizes the animal’s well-being. In some countries, these actions are crimes (http:/www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/education/viewing.htm). Feeding a dolphin in the wild acclimates the animal to begging for human food. Begging makes them more vulnerable to injury from boat strikes and fishing gear entanglement.
What does IMATA think of the movie, The Cove?
This movie has raised public awareness about the brutality of the mass slaughter in drive fisheries. We believe it will contribute to the efforts to end the mass slaughter, which IMATA also strongly condemns.
However, we also appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight. The movie falsely suggests that all zoological parks and aquariums acquire animals from drive fisheries and that these acquisitions are responsible for perpetuating this cruel practice. This is not true. Most international aquariums do not support the drive nor do they acquire animals from the hunt. The Japanese drive fisheries are a 500-plus-year-old practice that has continued for centuries providing food for an island nation.
For information on the inaccuracies in the film, please see the videos below:
How do you respond to those who disagree with the public display of marine mammals?
Facts show that the public highly values marine parks, aquariums, and zoos. A 2012 poll, conducted by Harris Interactive® for the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums , showed that the vast majority (97%) of the American public believes in the efforts of parks, zoos and aquariums. This majority believes that seeing and experiencing live marine mammals is the best way for children to not only learn about the animals but to inspire conservation action that can help marine mammals and their ocean environments.
The Harris poll also indicated that 94% of the public believes that the professionals who care for the animals at these facilities are committed to the welfare of their animals.
If drive fisheries stopped tomorrow, how would that affect how aquariums acquire their dolphins?
Marine parks, aquariums, and zoos make every effort to maintain populations of dolphins through scientifically-managed, responsible breeding programs. Exceptional care for marine animals, husbandry advances, and creative use of human medical technologies such as sonograms and artificial insemination, result in a substantial number of new dolphin calves every year.
Dolphins in zoological parks and aquariums live long, healthy lives. Many are in their 30s and 40s and some have reached 50 years. Due to these advancements and cooperative breeding programs, bottlenose dolphins have not been collected in U.S. waters for more than 20 years.
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