Decision has implications for whaling
TOKYO––The Japanese Association of Zoos & Aquariums governing board on May 20, 2015 elected to seek readmission to the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums.
JAZA was suspended from WAZA on April 22, 2015 for exhibiting dolphins captured through so-called “drive fishing,” the practice of herding whole pods of dolphins into shallow water to be sold or butchered. JAZA now intends to “present alternative ways to obtain dolphins” that WAZA may find acceptable.
WAZA chief executive Gerald Dick told media later on May 20, 2015 that he had not yet heard directly from JAZA, but that if JAZA members had decided to stop buying dolphins from “drive fisheries,” this would be “a big step forward.”
At issue in the JAZA decision are the future of dolphin exhibition in Japan, plus the future of the “drive fishery,” which economically depends on the proceeds from selling dolphins for exhibit. Involved as well is the strength of Japanese political support for coastal whaling and so-called “research whaling,” since the JAZA member institutions are instrumental in shaping public opinion about marine mammal issues.
Should JAZA fully accede to WAZA demands, the message to the Japanese public will amount to a concession that global perspectives must be respected.
JAZA represents 89 Japanese zoos and 63 Japanese aquariums. The 33 aquariums keep at least 352 dolphins. Eighteen of the aquariums recently admitted to the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun that they have purchased a total of 158 dolphins from the “drive fishery” at Taiji, exposed in the 2009 Academy Award-winning documentary film The Cove.
Calling itself WAZA for short, but “The WA-Zoo” to critics, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums is officially “the unifying representative of the global zoo and aquarium community.”
The WAZA governing council on April 22, 2015 announced that it had voted unanimously to suspend JAZA, after JAZA balked at actively discouraging members from patronizing “drive fisheries.”
30 days are up
WAZA on April 22, 2015 gave JAZA 30 days to move into compliance with WAZA “policies that prohibit participating in cruel and non-selective methods of taking animals from the wild,” a WAZA media release said.
The 30-day grace period was to end on Friday, May 22, 2015.
A JAZA poll of membership about what to do about the WAZA suspension closed on May 19, 2015.
“Many JAZA officials are concerned about the possible effects of expulsion, as many of them obtain rare animals from foreign countries through their membership in the association,” Yomiuri Shimbun reported on May 16, 2015.
Foreign devils & the deep blue sea
But the JAZA officials feel trapped between foreign devils and the deep blue sea, Yomiuri Shimbun continued, because “If JAZA decides to take action to avoid expulsion, it is highly likely the nation’s aquariums will no longer be able to obtain dolphins captured through drive fishery,” meaning an eventual end to dolphin exhibition at many aquariums. The other major sources of dolphins on exhibit are accidental capture in fishing nets, accounting for 68 dolphins currently on display, and captive breeding, accounting for just 42 dolphins.
National political implications
The WAZA suspension of JAZA has national political implications in Japan. Wakayama Prefecture, where Taiji is located, is also the home base for the Japanese coastal whaling fleet, which kills about 20,000 whales and dolphins per year within Japanese territorial waters.
The Japanese coastal whaling industry operates separately from the heavily government-subsidized “research whaling” industry. Introduced after the International Whaling Commission imposed a global moratorium on commercial whaling in international waters in 1986, the so-called “research whaling” industry killed upward of 1,000 minke and fin whales per year for decades, many of them within nominally internationally protected Antarctic waters.
Successful interference by the three-ship fleet of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society held the “research whaling” toll to 103 whales in 2012-2013, and 251 in 2014-2014.
World court ruled against Japan
The 16-member International Court of Justice, the chief judicial organ of the United Nations, on March 31, 2014 ruled by a vote of 12-4 that Japan “shall revoke any extant authorization, permit or license granted” to allow whaling in the Antarctic region, “and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance of that program.”
International Court of Justice president Peter Tomka told media that the court “was persuaded that Japan had conducted a program for logistical and political considerations, rather than scientific research,” summarized Andrew Darby of the Sydney Morning Herald.
The International Court of Justice ruling was ratified by the International Whaling Commission in September 2014.
Japanese whaling commissioner Joji Morashita, with the backing of prime minister Shinzo Abe, in April 2015 asked the IWC to approve a scheme to kill up to 330 whales per year in the name of research over the next 12 years.
The IWC Expert Panel rejected the Japanese application on April 14, 2015, but Morashita pledged to take it to the full IWC scientific committee, meeting from May 19 to June 3, 2015 in San Diego.
(See also: http://www.animals24-7.org/2015/04/25/out-the-wa-zoo-for-japanese-association-of-zoos-aquariums/; http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/04/03/intl-court-of-justice-rules-against-japanese-research-whaling/; and http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/11/22/defying-international-court-of-justice-japan-announces-plan-to-kill-another-4000-whles-in-the-name-of-research/)