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Japan's aquariums agree to stop purchasing hunted dolphins

Japan's zoos and aquariums were threatened with expulsion from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums prior to the announcement.

By Elizabeth Shim
Dolphin is a lucrative trade in Japan. A live dolphin could sell for up to $100,000, which is a much higher price than what hunters could obtain for dolphin meat – which sells for as little as $100. Photo by vkilikov/Shutterstock
Dolphin is a lucrative trade in Japan. A live dolphin could sell for up to $100,000, which is a much higher price than what hunters could obtain for dolphin meat – which sells for as little as $100. Photo by vkilikov/Shutterstock

TOKYO, May 20 (UPI) -- Japan's aquariums have agreed to stop purchasing live dolphins from the Japanese town of Taiji, notorious for its annual slaughter of hundreds of cetaceans.

The Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or JAZA, said Wednesday it would no longer take in dolphins hunted through controversial means. The Guardian reported the decision came as JAZA members were threatened with expulsion from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

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Kyodo News reported the majority of the 89 zoos and 63 aquariums in JAZA agreed to stop acquiring the dolphins – but leaves the aquariums with the challenge of sourcing dolphins from another location.

Dolphin-hunting in Japan gained infamy after an Oscar-winning 2009 documentary showed how fishermen in the town of Taiji would herd groups of dolphins into shallow water, before butchering them with knives.

RELATED Dolphins form complex social networks

The Cove mobilized animal rights groups around the world to action.

One group, Australia for Dolphins, played a pivotal role in addressing the role of Japanese aquariums in the dolphin deaths – taking court action against WAZA.

The group said WAZA was not taking sufficient action against Japanese aquariums, but the Swiss-based WAZA in April threatened to suspend Japanese members after they ignored requests to stop purchasing Taiji dolphins.

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Sarah Lucas, chief executive of Australia for Dolphins, said the group is "absolutely delighted to hear Japan's peak zoo body has voted to uphold international animal welfare standards and stop purchasing Taiji dolphins."

Dolphin is a lucrative trade in Japan.

A live dolphin could sell for up to $100,000, which is a much higher price than what hunters could obtain for dolphin meat – which sells for as little as $100.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy has said in the past she was "deeply concerned" by the "inhumaneness" of drive hunting for dolphins.

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