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Taiji’s New Shame

Taiji is infamous for its dolphin drive hunts. But there is another cruel practice being deployed in Taiji, and in other coastal areas in Japan. Minke and other whales are getting caught in ‘set nets’ that are used in fisheries off the coast of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture.

While these tethered gill nets are not set to catch whales, they sometimes get caught in the nets and are considered bycatch. Other endangered species also get trapped and entangled in these nets, including humpback whales, Risso’s dolphins, sharks, sunfish, rays, and sea turtles. This problem is not limited to Taiji—similar bycatch occurs with more than 5,100 set nets installed all over Japan.

In Japan, it is prohibited for anyone other than authorized whalers to hunt whales. If a whale is accidentally caught in a fishing net, the Japan’s Fisheries Agency requires that efforts must be made to release the whale, unless the process may cause human casualties or substantial damage to fishing gear.

On January 11, 2021, a young minke whale named “Hope” was brutally killed by being tied to the edge of a boat by her tail fluke, hoisted upside down, and subjected to forced submersion. Unable to surface to breath, she suffocated after violently struggling for more than 20 minutes. Hope was trapped for 19 days in the set nets before subjected to this inhumane killing method. This event made global headlines after being criticized by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and international animal welfare and conservation organizations, including OPS.

On January 6th, 2022, just a week into the new year, a minke whale was again killed by these same methods.

Life Investigation Agency (LIA), one of our allies in Japan, has documented these events for the world to see. Shockingly, they shared footage today, January 15th, of yet another minke whale caught in these fishing nets outside off the coast of Taiji.

No sentient being should be subjected to this prolonged cruel and inhumane treatment. Just like humans, whales breathe through their lungs, and if they suffocate, they die in excruciating pain. These whales can, and should be, released.

The methods being used to kill whales and dolphins in Japan are breathtakingly cruel. OPS calls upon the Taiji Fisheries Cooperative and the Government of Japan to release this minke whale immediately, and cease their brutal assault on all whales and dolphins in Japan.

What you can do!

*UPDATE* OPS received word that the minke whale broke loose from the nets on Tuesday, January 18th, during attempted capture by the fishermen. It is presumed they were working to tether the whale to be killed in the same manner as the others. We are relieved for this whale, but know that there will be others in the future.

Time is running out for the minke whale trapped in Taiji. Please call the International Affairs Division of the Japan Fisheries Agency and politely ask that the whale be released @ +81-3-3502-8111, ext. 6762 or +81-3-3502-2443. You can also call the Taiji Fisheries Cooperative @ +81-735-59-2048 or Taiji Fisheries Association @+81-735-59-2340

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