In a move sure to draw additional criticism from animal rights activists around the globe, the small Japanese town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture has announced formal plans to build a marine mammal park not far from where its fishermen conduct their annual slaughter of dolphins. The coastal town was made famous in the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, which revealed the gruesome fate of the sea mammals that results in the waters turning deep red with blood.
Town official Masaki Wada explained that Taiji envisions a place where tourists can swim alongside dolphins and small whales, however he makes clear that their dolphin hunts will continue, and even adds that the funds from park will help sustain their fishing practices. Wada goes to say that they one day hope the whole town of Taiji eventually becoming a park. Leaving no doubt that the local fishing industry is anything but giving in to pressure from conservationists, this vision includes the idea that visitors can “enjoy watching marine mammals while tasting various marine products, including whale and dolphin meat.”
Taiji hopes to open part of the park within the next five years, with the swimming pool featuring bottlenose dolphins and black whales that are caught in the surrounding waters. A portion of the park is described measuring nearly 69 acres. Meanwhile, Wakayama Prefecture records show that Taiji caught 1,277 dolphins over the 2012 season, and its current license allows it catch 2,026 throughout the current season. While a small selection of the dolphins corralled by fishermen are sold to aquariums and marine parks overseas, the remainder are stabbed to death for their meat.
While animal activists from around the globe continue to visit the town to protest, Taiji’s actions have their own detractors within Japan. Nanami Kurasawa, the secretary-general of the conservationist group Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network (IKAN), based in Tokyo, has condemned the plans for the marine park, arguing that the sea mammals don’t belong to Taiji, and are not theirs to exploit. She adds that these plans will only spark more protests & opposition to dolphin hunting, not help the town with tourism. Many Taiji locals often state that dolphin hunting is part of their 400 year old tradition, but Kurasawa points out that a much more useful way of attracting visitors would be to exhibit their historic whale hunting ships.