Shuji Kudo from PCA (Power of Compassion for All) / Anti-DCMT Japan

Ren Yabuki from LIA (Life Investigation Agency)

Ren Yabuki, who currently lives in Taiji Town, has been filming the incidents in the ocean from early morning every day, and posts them on SNS to show them around the world. He sometimes films in dangerous places such as on cliffs. He normally works on issues other than dolphins and whales.

Ren

On Dec 24, 2020, a young minke whale was confirmed to be in the set nets in the Taiji Sea. I started filming it every day.

Fishermen attempted to release it for only 10 minutes on December 24.

The set net is divided into three areas.

At first, the whale was in the middle area. At that time, the fishermen were able to release it. But the fishermen did not try hard to release it. Eventually the whale moved to the very last area. Finally, it was slaughtered on January 11, 2021.

Whales, dolphins, headfish, and hammerheads are frequently trapped in this net.

In the past, on Nov 29, 2020, a humpback whale was trapped in the same net. At that time, although it was in the middle net, it was released the next day by fishermen who lifted the net.

The day after this young minke whale was slaughtered, it was confirmed that one humpback whale was trapped in the nets: it was entangled in the destroyed nets, unable to breathe through its stomata, and suffocated.

Set nets are installed not only in Taiji but in many areas in Japan.

With minke whales alone, more than 100 die each year due to the set net. This is the current situation in Japan.

I named the young minke whale that was trapped in the net on December 24, “HOPE”. On the evening of Jan. 11, 2021 when HOPE was slaughtered, HOPE’s meat was sold at a supermarket in Taiji.

Kudo

There were sharks in the set nets along with HOPE, right?

Ren

Yes. There were 9 Hammerhead sharks in them.

Two boats were used to drive them into the very last area of the nets, then fishermen scooped them with a net and put them onto a boat. The shark that was slaughtered on the boat was thrashing about wildly. LIA filmed everything.

The hammerhead shark is in the third category from the top of the IUCN endangered species list, which is “CR”. The top category contains extinct (non-existent) types of species.

The second contains critically endangered species. Minke whales, humpback whales, Risso’s dolphins, etc. are in the lowest, or “LC” (Least Concern) category among endangered species.

In short, the hammerhead shark is in the second most critical category of endangered species currently in existence. Regarding hammerhead sharks, wikipedia also states that “the number has changed drastically due to bycatch.”

However, even though the hammerhead shark is included in the endangered species of IUCN, it is not included in the endangered species of Japan. So, in Japan it is legal to capture it, slaughter it, sell its meat and eat it.

What kind of food is the hammerhead shark used for?

As with all sharks, hammerhead sharks are used in fish paste products such as kamaboko, hanpen, chikuwa, and so on.

Eight hammerhead sharks were slaughtered two days after HOPE was killed. Only one hammerhead swam away without being killed.

However, it was also caught and slaughtered a few days later.

Mature hammerhead sharks are usually 2 meters in size. All nine sharks were 1 meter long, so I assume they were still juveniles.

Usually, juvenile sea creatures swim in groups with only other juveniles.

So, the young sharks must have entered the set net together. Eventually all of them were slaughtered by Taiji fishermen.

In addition to whales and sharks, various wild animals such as sea turtles and seabirds are often trapped in the set nets.

As I recently posted on LIA’s Facebook page, bycatch has reduced seabirds and seagulls by 70 percent over the last 60 years.

This is a profoundly serious problem.

Kudo

Set nets are an issue all over the world, and in some countries they are banned, right?

Ren

Yes. Set nets allow fishermen to catch sea creatures without limit. Fishermen catch creatures regardless of their species.

The set nets are being installed in areas where seawater is constantly flowing and so are livable for fish. Large fish and marine mammals chasing smaller prey are all caught in the set nets.

Not only “fixed nets”, but there are also currently various types of seine nets and bottom trawls in Japan. It is very problematic.

Kudo

Some countries prohibit the installation of fixed nets, right?

Yes. Dolphins and whales MUST NOT be captured in fixed nets, so some countries ban them.

And althought all species of sea turtles are endangered, they are often trapped in fixed nets in Japan.

If the government doesn’t say anything, its citizens don’t think they have a moral obligation to stop it. If the government does not explicitly regulate it, morals will be ignored and the people will say, “It’s not illegal, so we can do it.”

Ren

That is why I think the AU government and the PM of the UK have commented critically on this issue as well.

The Japanese government gave the OK to capture those creatures. After all, no (sea) animals are owned by Japan. They do not belong to any country. They are migratory birds or sea animals. They live across different countries.

Whales swimming in Taiji today may have swum in Korea and China. It is strange that only the Japanese can freely capture or slaughter them. Wild animals living on the earth are important and shared by all human beings on the earth.

For wild animals, the fact that they are forced to obey the laws humans created – they are killed because of human laws – is quite hard for them.

Wild animals do not understand that “the sea here is the territory of this country, so we cannot enter this area.”

Only humans divide the earth into countries.

Kudo

The Taiji Fisheries Association said, “The tide was too strong to release the minke whale,” but this statement doesn’t match your findings. In other words, the interpretation that the union is lying is valid, but why do you think they wanted to kill the minke whale and are now lying?

Ren

There are two reasons for it. One is because it’s profitable to kill minke whales and sell them as meat. 177 grams sells for around $14 USD.

One whale weighs a few tons. HOPE was about 6 meters long, and there are quite a lot of parts that can be sold as meat.

So even though they’re saying, “The minke whale entered by itself into the set nets,” the fishermen actually thought, “The minke whale is trapped in the set nets by itself, so we can kill it and make more money”.  Of course, this is my assumption.

Because making money is their first priority.

Kudo

When a humpback whale got caught in the set nets in Nov. 2020, the fishermen lifted the net and released it, so why didn’t that happen this time?

Ren

First, their handling differs depending on the kind of whales they capture. For minke whales, fishermen actively capture them.

But they do not do so when they find humpback whales. Actually, the number of bycatch minke whales is overwhelming. The meat of minke whales is said to be the most delicious, so it’s easy to sell it.

In addition, another reason that they didn’t lift the net to release HOPE is that now is yellowtail season. The fish in this season are delicious because they are fatty, and many of them were trapped in the nets.

So, if they lifted the nets, the fish would eventually escape. Also, it takes time to lower the nets again, and it costs money and effort. That’s why they didn’t lift the net for HOPE.

But this time the minke whale was trapped as bycatch. The fishermen are not qualified to catch dolphins/whales in the first place.

Those are caught only by designated fisheries; whaling, drive hunts and net fishing need to be permitted under authorities. Not everyone can do it.

For example, in the Taiji Isana fishery, 12 licensed fishermen are permitted to drive hunt dolphins.

In the same way, all dolphin hunts/whaling are done with permission. Unauthorized set net fishermen are not allowed to catch whales/dolphins.

However, if dolphins/whales are trapped in the set nets, the Fisheries Agency requests that fishermen release them as much as possible.

So, the Fisheries Agency was asking the Taiji Fisheries Association to release HOPE, but all they could do was make a request.

However, the Taiji union did not listen to the request.

The Fishery Agency also contacted Wakayama Prefecture. It answered that the fishermen said they were trying to release the minke whale as much as possible. However, the Taiji fishermen actually tried to release it only for 10 minutes on December 24th. That’s it.

After that, the fishermen came to see HOPE, but did nothing.

Wakayama said that the tide was too fast to drive the minke whale out of the net, but I was watching every day and using drones to monitor them. They were obviously fishing at the fixed nets on many days. Even when the minke whale was in the middle net, the fishermen were fishing with the set nets.

The very last section has double nets. Fishermen in two boats enter between the nets diagonally, gradually approaching each other to move the inner nets toward each other. Then, the fish are scooped up with a net, and a crane is used to drop them onto the boats. This is repeated.

Even at that time, HOPE was in the middle net and swimming.

If the tide is really fast, they shouldn’t be able to do this work in the very last net. So, if they can work at the set nets, the tide must not be particularly strong.

In that situation, the fishermen should have been able to lift the nets and make efforts to save HOPE.

So, “they tried hard but couldn’t do it” and “they didn’t do it” are completely different. In fact, the fishermen only tried for 10 minutes on December 24th. The fishermen actually DID NOT MAKE ANY EFFORT TO RELEASE HOPE!

I was watching it every day. What the fishermen are saying is a lie.

Ren

The reason why Wakayama and the Fisheries Agency are repeating that efforts were made to release HOPE is that neither of them have visited the site in Taiji. They’re just disseminating what the Taiji Fisheries Association said.

And since Wakayama gave a press release, Kyodo News published an article without any interview in it. Therefore, the lie that “Taiji fishermen tried to help HOPE” has spread more and more. In fact, Taiji fishermen are not making efforts to help minke whales.

Kudo

In the end, the authorities just passed along the lie as it was, right?

Ren

That’s right.

There were days when the tide was too fast for fishermen to work. On those days, they came to check the scene and returned without doing any work.

There were also days when the sea was too rough to visit the site. That is true. However, there were many calm sea days between December 24th and January 11th. Those days had no wind, nice weather, no waves in the sea.

On such a day, drive hunting was conducted right next to the fixed net where HOPE was. The boats were driving dolphins to the shore while passing by the set net.

The dolphins that were driven that day were the small kind. Suddenly, the dolphin herd turned around while two boats were working on the fixed nets. I was filming everything at the time.

At that time, the dolphin hunting boats were anchored at the entrance of the set nets, and the fisherman and the hunters were having a conversation with one another.

Is it possible that “the tide was too fast to release HOPE,” even though they were talking while standing on anchored boats like that? Indeed, the fishermen didn’t try. That is the truth.

There are also videos to prove it.

Kudo

Are there similar cases overseas where fixed nets are legal?

What kind of measures are being taken overseas?

Ren

In countries where set nets are legal, whales and dolphins are basically released immediately, even if they are bycatch. It is the same in Japan. In Futo, Shizuoka Prefecture, when a whale was trapped in the set nets there, the net was cut and it was released.

There are some Japanese people who say “We are different from foreign countries”. But basically, even in Japan fishermen are trying to release bycatch. They are supposed to make efforts to release them.

If fishermen do not release them, they cannot set up the set nets in the first place.

Kudo

I heard that “Taiji fishermen were waiting for HOPE to die”, but did the fishermen say that?

Ren

I visited the owner of the fixed nets and asked him to release HOPE. But he said, “Why am I supposed to release the minke whale?”

So I said, “But you released the humpback whale in November 2020”. Then he said, “Because you urged us to release it.

However, for the next four days we couldn’t fish and lost a lot of money. That cost us more than $1 million USD*. Will you compensate for our losses? ” (*I don’t remember the exact amount)

And then he said something like “This is a fight to the death between you and me!” So, I replied, “No, no. I have no intention of killing anyone.”

But minke whales are wild animals, not human property, so his remarks were totally nonsense.

Kudo

For animals trapped in the set nets, releasing them and returning them to the wild is a basic courtesy that human beings must at minimum keep.

Ren

Yes. I’m a vegan so I don’t eat fish anyway, but I’m not telling fishermen “Don’t capture mackerel”.

I’m just saying that unqualified fishermen cannot capture whales. And the Fisheries Agency is also saying “Please release them.”

It’s not “illegal”, so they can only “request”; but if the authority that has jurisdiction over the laws is making a request, shouldn’t we all follow as citizens? I think social order is disturbed by ignoring them.

Kudo

In the last live stream, you said, “Basically, in the Japanese fishery, the strongest power is the fishermen in the field, not the Fisheries Agency, so the Fisheries Agency just obeys the local fishermen”. In the end, do the local fishermen get everything their own way?

Ren

Right. In fact, the power among the fishery should be in the shape of a triangular pyramid – the government should be at the top, or order will not be maintained. But the current situation is that the local fishermen are at the top. How can the laws be kept in such a situation?

Kudo

Often, social order is lost.

Ren

Yes. The most obvious example is the one that happened 3 years ago. 3 or 4 Pacific white-sided dolphins and one Risso’s dolphin were trapped in the same set net as HOPE was.

Taiji fishermen and dolphin hunters moved the set nets by boats, and after throwing the Risso’s dolphin out of the nets, caught all the Pacific white-sided dolphins, then put them on the boat. In the end, they kept them in the pens at the Taiji fishing port.

This is poaching. The Dolphin Project filmed this fact in a video. LIA has filed a criminal accusation about this before.

Kudo

I remember it.

Ren

In the case of minke whales, they might release them because the Fisheries Agency asks. But in the case of small whales, the fishermen must release them. But the fishermen secretly put them into their pens. This is nothing but poaching.

There was a person who visited the Fisheries Agency and asked about it. At that time, five officials were there, and they stated that “secretly keeping small bycatch whales in pens is poaching.”

After LIA filed an accusation, the police, who regard poaching as an illegal act, were not familiar with the law, so they asked the government office.

Then the Fisheries Agency told them, “The fishermen in Taiji have released the small whales, so their actions are not illegal.”

But in fact, it was 4 days after capture that fishermen released them. And it was only because there was a flood of protests from those watching the situation, and they just reluctantly responded. So the authorities said, “It’s not a crime because the fishermen eventually released them.” No way!

For example, suppose I kidnapped a child. If I were suspected by his parents or witnesses, I might think “It’s not a good situation”. So suppose I then returned him to his family 4 days later. If so, am I not still guilty?

K

Exactly right. It’s just lawlessness.

R

This is evidence that Taiji fishermen are stronger than ministries. The Fisheries Agency has defended the illegal activities of fishermen.

K

Is this the case for fisheries all over Japan?

R

The Japan Agricultural cooperatives and the fishery cooperatives are very strong nationwide. When the LDP tried to reform the agricultural cooperative, it was harshly opposed by them. Thus, the agricultural cooperatives are stronger than the government, and the local fishery cooperative is stronger than the Fisheries Agency.

It’s really funny.

K

They can do whatever they want.

R

That’s right. In fact, no one can monitor the sea, so fishermen can do whatever they want. For example, fishermen can catch sea turtles (endangered species) and say, “This is bycatch.” No one knows the fishermen even if they poach.

Currently, only 3 or 4 dugongs have survived, but although they are an endangered species, fishermen in Okinawa caught them and ate one after another.

K

They don’t care about catching endangered species?

R

Right. They seem to think it’s not their business to protect even endangered species. “Dugong is delicious,” they say. “It tastes like beef”. Don’t eat endangered species!

R

The Japanese laws about animals and the environment are full of loopholes.

K

I have no words. LIA and we at PCA jointly submitted an open letter to the Governor of Wakayama on January 20, 2021. We are requesting him to send us a reply by Feb 3, 2021. His reply will be disclosed to everyone regardless of whether Wakayama Prefecture answers or not. I will post it worldwide through all SNS.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~^

K

Taiji hunters often say, “We’ve been hunting whales for a long time. It is our culture.” But when were dolphin hunts started in Taiji?

R

For a long time, we have taken dolphins/whales that ran aground, and since Japan is an island country, they were eaten all over the country.

Regarding whales, Taiji asserts that Taiji is the birthplace of old-fashioned whaling. In Taiji, people used to burn fire and emit smoke to signal each other, and there are still ruins to show this. But whale hunting at that time and current Taiji dolphin drive hunts are completely different.

Old-fashioned whaling is no longer done in Taiji.

The main whaling practice in Taiji is net-based whale drive hunting. The Taiji Whale Museum was founded in 1969, and they needed live dolphins for exhibitions to attract visitors. That is the reason why Taiji drive hunts have started. Only 51 years have passed. Taiji dolphin drive hunting is not Japanese tradition.

K

Is Wakayama replacing whale drive hunts with Japanese “tradition”?

R

That’s their trick, but in the first place, what they are profiting from in cetacean hunts is “sales of live animals” * Dolphins are defined as within 4 meters, and whales over 4 meters.

Whales and dolphins are all the same species, so just called different names depending on their size. The way to drive and catch small whales is called Taiji drive hunting.

In Taiji, only 12 people have permission to drive dolphins. All ships used for hunting are also registered.

Taiji’s drive hunting began in 1969. Do we call something that just started 51 years ago a tradition? It is the sale of live dolphins to aquariums around the world that the dolphin hunters get profit from.

Eating whale meat may have been a Japanese tradition, but selling living dolphins is not.

The profit from Taiji dolphin hunts comes from the sales of live dolphins. Because if they sell live dolphins, each dolphin costs around $50,000 USD (street price). Prices vary depending on the age, gender, size, color, etc.

But slaughtered dolphins are traded for around $140 USD each. So instead of selling them for meat, Taiji fishermen want to make profits by selling them alive. The sales of live dolphins is a new business.

K

The sales of live dolphins did not exist in ancient times. Aquariums didn’t exist at the time either.

The other day, I told one of my friends about Taiji dolphin drive hunting. She said, “I don’t like anti-dolphin hunt activists, because I think Sea Shepherd makes COVE films and uses them to fight Japanese food culture.”

So I explained to her about the sale of dolphins. She was surprised to hear it. “Currently, live dolphin sales are much more profitable than selling their meat, so the sales of live dolphins is their main business”. Indeed, many Japanese people do not know this fact.

R

Many Japanese are completely trapped by the control of information.

K

Simply put, the elected member of Wakayama Prefecture is the secretary-general of the LDP. In the situation where local fishermen are stronger than the Fisheries Agency, Taiji fishermen calculate where they should spend money in their own interests.

R

In Taiji Town, posters of the secretary-general are posted here and there in the markets, offices, and warehouses of the fisheries associations.

K

Some fishermen in Wakayama Prefecture say, “Mr. Nikai is a god.”

What interests me about Taiji is that the depopulated neighboring towns are all abandoned, but in Taiji there are clean public toilets, a beautiful observatory on the cliff, roads, buildings, etc. In other words, I personally felt that Taiji Town has benefited a lot.

Is there any connection between the fact that Japan withdrew from the International Whaling Commission and the fact that it withdrew from WASA? Has Japan withdrawn from the IWC because it wants to continue hunting dolphins/whales?

R

WAZA and JAZA do not include large whales. On the other hand, IWC is about large whales on the coast.

All of Japan tends to catch and use cetaceans regardless of size, so that’s the same, but catching for entertainment sales and whaling are not the same thing.

Whaling and dolphin hunting along the coast are currently being done in Iwate, Hokkaido, Miyagi, Chiba, Okinawa, etc., but basically only Taiji (Wakayama) and Futo (Shizuoka) are selling live dolphins. * Futo resumed dolphin hunting two years ago

Futo is in its second season this year, but hasn’t caught any dolphins yet. In the past, Futo also captured dolphins and both slaughtered them and sold them as living organisms. But from this time on, Futo announced that it will only sell living organisms.

The reason is that if Futo actively acts to turn the sea of Futo, which is certified as a Geopark, into a sea of blood, the Geopark certification may be revoked.

Futo still  doesn’t even have pens to keep dolphins they captured

I don’t know what they do after capturing, but anyway, dolphin hunting has resumed in Futo. Dolphin hunting may begin in other areas in Japanese in the future.

After capturing, whether they kill dolphins/whales or sell them alive, it’s up to each hunter.

As long as they keep the catch quota, they can sell any number of the captured dolphins alive and kill any number of them. Usually, dolphin hunters  want to sell it alive because that is more profitable.

A further problem is that this “capture quota” is not regulated by law. It is only as a  guide. If the fishermen exceed the catch limit, the authorities will warn them a little.

Furthermore, in prefectures where dolphins are captured, such as Okinawa, Iwate, and Miyagi, “adjustment” is being conducted. In other words, “This time, there are so many extra capture slots, so use them at your place.” It is too shaddy to be accepted.

K

Is it possible for completely new prefectures to start dolphin hunting, not just the prefectures that currently have dolphin hunting permits?

R

Yes. Dolphin hunting is possible in any prefecture with the permission of the prefectural governor. The Japanese law basically prohibits the capture of dolphins/whales. However, in the law “provided” is stated as follows: “However, this does not apply if the prefecture permits it.”

Therefore, if the prefectural governor gives the fishermen permission to whaling/dolphin hunting, the permission can be obtained anywhere in the prefectures adjacent to the sea.

K

It’s like “the law has no teeth”.

R

Why does Japan make those laws with no teeth? Crafts using “tortoiseshell” and “ivory” have been made in Japan for a long time. Ivory has been used for hanko, piano keyboards and plectrums of  shamisen.

That’s why it takes so long to regulate ivory. The power of the ivory and tortoiseshell association is strong. That’s why the government has purposely made it a “the law has no teeth”.

K

Japanese law is written so that it can be interpreted in any way.

R

The Animal Protection Law in Japan states that “it must be properly raised in consideration of such habits”, however, what does “appropriate” mean?

In the case of dogs, e.g., it is obvious that we have to take them for a walk, but some people say, “My dog is free to walk around inside the house. so it is ok without going outside”.  Some people say that they leash their cats and keep them outside.

Japanese law intentionally uses ambiguous words. By doing so, it creates loopholes in the law.

K

Question: “When I called Taiji fishermen’s union to protest, a union member said on the phone,’I can’t end the Taiji dolphin hunting with my generation’; but why did he use suchi big words even Taiji drive hunting has no history (only 51 years)?

R

Please ask him directly.

K

Some people say, “Dolphin hunters are aging and will soon retire, so dolphin hunting will be obsolete.” What do you think?

R

It won’t go away. In every business there is always someone to supply when there is demand. As long as there are dolphin buyers (aquariums),  there will always be sellers.

If the dolphin hunters are gone, e.g., rogue (yakuza) will bring fishermen from somewhere and start dolphin hunting business. For example, at the time of the nuclear power plant problem, no one went to the scene. Then, people were gathered at the scene by recruiting for high salaries, bringing in foreigners, and gathering people by antisocial organizations.

Whenever there is demand and profit, there will be people who supply it. As long as there are aquariums and dolphin shows are held, there will be a constant number of people capturing and selling dolphins.

So even as fishermen age and retire, new dolphin hunters will appear. Some of the fishermen in the movie “THE COVE(the 1990’s)”have already died, and most of the fishermen in the movie at that time have quit dolphin hunters.

The person who was yelling at the fishery union in the movie is still there, but most of the people who were actually on board the dolphin boats in Taiji are now retired. Instead, their sons have become Taiji dolphin hunters, and some former dolphin hunters have changed jobs..

Thus, they are not hunting dolphins any more, but dolphin hunts in Taiji are still ongoing. In other words, new fishermen appear (becoming disciples).

In this way, Taiji dolphin hunting continues. But 11 or 12 people have permission to hunt dolphins. They absolutely keep this number. In short, the more permitters they have, the less profit they make per person.

K

Wouldn’t other fishermen be jealous of the lucrative dolphin hunters?

R

Yes. They want to be dolphin hunters. But they are not jealous because they are rewarded by hunters. For example, when fishermen who catch fish go offshore and find dolphins, they will contact the dolphin hunters wirelessly.

So, e.g.,if dolphin hunters drive and capture a pod of dolphins, making profit, the fishermen in the fishery can get about 500,000 yen just by contacting the dolphin hunters. In that way, dolphin hunters and fishery hunters maintain a mutual dependence relationship. So they also try to find pods of dolphins for hunters.

K

They are sharing profits, aren’t they?

R

Yes.They are thinking that they unite and continue the business.

So it’s difficult.

K

It’s also  proof of how profitable they are.

R

I agree.

For example, about 80 bottlenose dolphins were caught by hunters in Taiji. Roughly, I calculate that the sales in that hunt are about 400 million yen at the terminal price. It’s a huge amount.

K

If catching one, the dolphin hunters can play and live for a while without working.

R

This amount is when sold to the aquarium, so I think fishermen get even cheaper. And if they divide it by the number of co-workers, I think that it is about 10 million yen per person.

Dolphin hunters may have earned about 10 million yen per person in 3-4 days. So during the six months of dolphin hunting season from Sep 1st to the end of Feb, there are dolphin hunters who have only worked for these six months and have been playing for the other six months.

K

They are able to make a profit from it that they don’t have to work for half a year.

R

Yes.Because of such a business, dolphin hunters cannot easily quit voluntarily.

Dolphin hunters are effortlessly making good money, so they can’t stop it. Therefore, for us, activities to eliminate demand are very important. We can’t stop it by telling fishermen  “stop cruel dolphin hunting!”

K

Question about demand: “Does Taiji provide dolphin meat for school lunch?”

R

I don’t know about dolphin meat, but whale meat is served at school lunch not only in Taiji but other places, too. I’m from Nagano prefecture, but even elementary schools in Nagano have whale meat for lunch.

Since it was ruled by law that “whale meat will be served for school lunch” the other day, in the future, whale meat will be served more and more at school lunches across Japan.This has happened as the Japanese government resumed commercial whaling.

K

Even if bad deeds are rampant on the sea, no one is watching them, so the investigators need drones. From this season, drone use has been restricted in the Taiji Sea. Please explain about it.

R

Until the previous season, drones could be flown over the cove in taiji, but from this season, Taiji has enacted a new ordinance that prohibits people from using drones over cove. They enacted such an ordinance as we often flew drones over cove last season to obtain evidence and record.

As I learned in the newspaper, “when this new ordinance was enacted, the hunter said, ‘It was dangerous because the drone crashed during fishing’, so the ordinance was enacted”; it says.

However, indeed, neither I nor the other activist who was flying the drone with me crashed the drone. So what the hunter said is a lie.

In order to obtain reliable evidence, I requested the Wakayama Prefectural Police to disclose information. Then, what was written in the document was the fact that IT HAD NEVER CRASHED. In other words, the hunters in Taiji made up the story that the drone had crashed.

However, another activist had landed a drone in a place where dolphin hunting was taking place (inside the fence marked “No Trespassing”). But obviously it was not a crash. He landed the drone on the ground then.

K

A crash means you lose control and fall it down.

R

That has never happened to us. So, for that reason (a lie), an ordinance was created that bans the use of drones on the cove of Taiji.

K

So aren’t you shooting from directly above the cove right now?

R

No. Now no one can shoot from directly above the cove. Now we are shooting the cove from a distance. It is supposed to be 50 meters away from the cove where dolphin hunting is taking place. There is a sign showing that people cannot enter from the points, so we fly drones outside the regulated area and shoot.

However, when I was flying drones yesterday, the police came. But the police had already been well aware of the situation.

The police said, “I came because there was a report,” so I asked them what we did wrong, then they said, “The drone went into the fishing net for a moment.” But in reality, it’s not at all. I said “let alone for a moment, you’ve been  there all the time. You can see it.” But that’s how Taiji fishermen make ”a fait accompli”.

And they may make a new regulation next year. They will say “They flew drones through the fishing nets. It’s too dangerous!”.

But actually, the drones were completely out of the nets and we obeyed the ordinance. The police also knew that fact. If you call the police, they will come anyway. Even the time of a couple quarrel also comes. In the same way, the police come anyway whenever there is a report.

No matter if it is a false call or not, police come to the scene as long as they receive a call anyway.

 I often shoot when the fishermen’s boat is out in the morning, but the fishermen often shoot me biking to the scene before I shoot their boats.  I don’t say “don’t shoot me” to them or I don’t call the police just because I’m filmed.

Yes, we are shooting each other.  When I start shooting, the fishermen call the police. They are incoherent. It’s like “I shoot people, but when I’m filmed, I call the police.”

K

That’s how scary drones are for the fisheries union.

R

The Fisheries Cooperative is another because it is for a set net fishermen. Dolphin hunters belong to the Isana Fishermen’s Union. The Taiji fishery union is made up of various fishery unions.

I took pictures of the fixed nets, which issue has become a global problem. The moment when HOPE was killed due to the set nets was filmed for the first time in the world. We now  know exactly how they  are killed when  trapped in set nets.

In particular, the governor of Wakayama Prefecture says, “This method of killing is not only done in Taiji, but whales that are bycatch everywhere in Japan are killed in this way.”

In other words, more than 100 minke whales are bycatch nationwide every year. – “Drowning minke whales by fishermen” is conducted 100 times a year in Japan.

In addition, it means  that in Japan when humpback whales are trapped as bycatch, they are being killed in the same cruel way.

K

Yes, he’s like saying, “We’re doing such a slaughter method to bycatch everywhere” .

R

I agree.  The governor says, “This is not only done by Taiji.” 

Various things are exposed by shooting drones.

K

From the next season, there is a possibility that the area where you can not shoot with a drone will expand further.

R

Yes. The important thing is that I’m just recording the facts. I’m not trying to edit a video using CG. I don’t deliberately make the killing of whales look terrible and cruel.

I’m just shooting the situation as it is. If you see it and think it’s terrible, then what’s actually happening is terrible.

It’s wrong to control people by not showing the facts. The facts cannot be changed.

K

For sea creatures, Taiji is a battlefield,  just as a battlefield photographer is filming the war.

R

If the facts are “cruel and awful,” the situation needs to be changed.

Authorities are trying to regulate, “Don’t reflect reality.”, however they are just doing the same thing as a country doing terrible things in war. It’s just trying to hide the wrongdoing.

It is more important to solve the problem in the first place than to hide the problem or not.

But the authorities try to hide the fact that they are doing terrible things and protect their bad deeds.

The Taiji current ordinance is valid for April 1, 2021.

Dolphin hunting ends at the end of February in Taiji, but next, pilot whale hunting begins from the beginning of March to the end of March. Authorities have created this ordinance to prevent us from filming it.

Taiji dolphin hunting will begin again on September 1st of this year, when new ordinances are likely to be created. Then the authorities could further defend our activities. They may ban the shooting itself. That’s why we now need the drone that can shoot with higher image quality.

K

High-performance equipment is a truly indispensable weapon for research.

R

Therefore, it is necessary to record as much Taiji as possible during this season.

K

You must submit the record to the authorities as evidence.

R

That’s right, and in order to reduce the demand for dolphins, we have to show that fact to the public.

It is necessary to publicize the fact that “dolphins in the aquarium are captured like that and are now performing in the aquarium.”

Many people think that all the dolphins in the aquarium live happily. So we have to tell them the fact that the dolphins were forced out of the sea and kept in concrete pools for the rest of their lives. If we don’t tell the public carefully, they will never know.  So I want to take as much evidence as possible during this season.

K

People who have been persecuted in the past often become known to the world only after the video is released, and from there it becomes an issue..

Since the animals cannot shoot the images themselves, you are working hard to shoot for them, and share the facts to the world. The actions in Taiji has become a global criticism; by repeating that, the status quo can be changed.

LIA footage is really essential. Is one drone broken now?

R

Yes.One is broken and I need another one. Some people (groups) say they will buy the new one, but I would like to get another drone with a zoom that can be taken from outside the restricted area with high image quality. This costs 2.5 million yen (about $23,000 USD)

Drones that can be used in Japan have to qualify as a “GITEKI mark”. It is very difficult for us to get the mark by ourselves, so we need to buy one with the mark.

Until the end of this season, you need to do your best at shooting, so it has to be purchased asap.

R

The drone takes two weeks from order to arrival, so I want to buy it as soon as possible. I want it this month. I already have a permit, but anyone who flies a drone needs to get a permit.We also need to register the drone number.

GFM was launched by overseas supporters. It is exclusively for this drone now. The site states that about 200,000 yen has already been collected, but that is a thing of the past, and not much has been collected for drones (as of January 24, 2021).

It is necessary to store valuable evidence images in the highest quality. People might be confused to see low-quality video as “an event that happened in the old days.”

It is necessary to shoot with the latest one in order to convey and influence people in the longest possible span. This is important.

K

Moreover, in Taiji, the use of drones is restricted, and you need to shoot from a great distance. If you magnify what you shot at a long distance, you can clearly see it if you use the highest quality equipment. Those shot in high quality can be used as materials.

R

The video of HOPE being slaughtered was shot at a very close distance with a drone with a 2x zoom lens in 4K. I also shot with a 4K camera with a 1000x telephoto lens from the cape. I edited the footage shot by the two cameras to make that video.

The video of the Hammerhead was shot with a 4K drone, and the slaughter on a ship was shot with a 4K camera with a tripod on the ground. Therefore, even if it is enlarged, it can be identified as sharks.

If it was HD, it would become a mosaic when enlarged and I couldn’t tell if it was sharks or what else.

K

Shooting for the purpose of evidence/research material is meaningless unless it can be clearly shot.

R

The HOPE was slaughtered 1 km from the cape. Without the footage of a 4K camera installed on the ground, the drones, and the camera, we could only identify “doing something very far away.” It was too far to see with the naked eye.

At that time, I was shooting with a high-performance 4K camera with a zoom lens while using a drone, so I was able to spread this issue all over the world.

K

A valuable image that could be informed to the whole world.

This is a project that cannot be done without our cooperation. Please support LIA.

We are grateful to Yabuki, who currently lives in Taiji and monitors/films at the places with poor footing in the cove every morning to solve the Taiji problem. Therefore, we, in front of PCs and smartphones, need to work as much as possible for what Yabuki needs for activities.

It’s too late to do anything after the creatures on earth are extinct. We want to do our best now, film as much as possible and leave it as valuable resources. Shooting such footage is historically important.

LIA is accepting donations from credit cards, too.

R

I will definitely publish the footage shot with the new drone in the future and make it absolutely useful for the earth. I don’t know if I can release the  video to everyone immediately due to the strategy etc., but I will definitely release it to everyone so that it can be used for educational activities.

K

It’s like the property of the earth. Images that must be kept now for future whales and dolphins.

R

LIA usually promotes our campaigns in planned manners. This video shooting is also the result of proceeding as planned. However, HOPE was killed. I think it was our fault. This campaign ended up being a failure for LIA.

I feel sorry for the whale/sharks and supporters. Life-threatening activities means failure = death. LIA has to make sure we don’t fail as much as possible. LIA always hungrily tries to achieve the goals and has produced results so far.

LIA has had two failed experiences. This time is one of them.

We think about the causes of the failure and use it as a fertilizer in the future.

K

Question from the comments:

“Does Corona have any effect on exporting dolphins alive overseas?”

R

Yes, China is currently stopping the import of live animals. China is the number one exporter of Taiji dolphins. Many dolphins have been captured already. Hunters are making pens more and more and keeping more dolphins there. In other words, they are increasing inventory(dolphins).

The longer the corona issue drags on, the more stock (dolphins) will be there. Nowadays, Taiji hunters are just raising dolphins every day.

For dolphins, it is necessary to feed each one twice a day with fish such as mackerel and herring in a bucket every day. The food given to dolphins is thawed frozen fish purchased in Mie Prefecture.

Each dolphin eats two buckets of fish a day. The longer the corona issue drags on, the more money it costs to keep dolphins. The number of pens for keeping dolphins is increasing. There are also three more pens at dolphin-based.

The one in the picture is the pens owned by the Taiji Whale Museum.

The number of pens owned by this “Taiji Whale Museum” is also increasing.

Only less than 10 dolphins/whales have been shipped overseas this year. The remaining dolphins are in stock for the hunters.

New dolphin keepers are also hired in Taiji. If the Corona issue prolongs, the business of selling dolphins alive overseas cannot continue.

The Taiji Whale Museum was also in the business of training Chinese dolphin trainers, but now Chinese people cannot enter Japan. If Corona is protracted and unable to export dolphins to China, it will lose its clients. It was announced on the FB page of the Dolphin Project this morning, but it seems that South Korea may also ban dolphin show business by law.

K

South Korea is more enhanced in dolphin welfare.

R

LIA was interviewed on a Korean TV show last year. Just then there was a typhoon. Overseas, the dolphin business is quitting one after another, but only Japan and China are still trying to build aquariums.

Whale meat and dolphin meat were served at a restaurant named “Tsukushi” in front of the Taiji Whale Museum, but it has recently closed due to Corona. It had been running for over 15 years. The restaurant had almost no customers on weekdays and in winter. Would someone like to open a vegan restaurant there?

K

When people see a dolphin show at the Taiji Whale Museum, they are impressed that “dolphins are so cute”, and then they goto the restaurant to eat dolphin meat. This doesn’t make sense.

R

Really, the way of thinking of such people is incomprehensible.

Asia, including Taiwan, is a dolphin export target. Dolphins are also exported from Taiji to Arabia. Arabia is currently expanding its animal utilization business. Rich people are playing games such as using hawks to catch other birds.

K

Wouldn’t Taiji hunters receive subsidies from the government if their cash flow went bad? Mr. Nikai, a powerful secretary-general, is defending Taiji dolphin hunting. So I think there is a lot of possibility of it. However, it is clear that the state of stock (dolphins)  in Taiji will suffer them in the future.

However, it is more important to take the direction in which Taiji fishermen have no choice but to quit. For that reason, I think it is important to keep the video/footage as evidence.

R

Taiji dolphin hunters don’t want to quit their job because the occupation is profitable.If the public  knows that the dolphin shows are cruel and bad, they will try to stop the “bad thing” as a matter of course. Most humans try to improve as much as possible.

There are many people who stop going to dolphin shows when they know the facts. It’s easier to schock and tell the facts to them when they see it than when they hear it.

K

Once again, we are not blaming the people of Taiji, but criticizing the dolphin hunting itself. Yabuki, who has lived in Taiji for a long time, says that the people in Taiji are extremely nice, and all Taiji residents are warm and kind.

Taiji is not evil.

R

As many of you may know about the dog meat trade in China or South Korea, not all Taiji citizens are evil, just as not all citizens of those countries eat dog meat.

Activists such as South Korea are very powerful. Only a few of its citizens eat dog meat, and only a few of them are in the dog/cat meat business.

Taiji has a population of about 3,500, but only 12 people are qualified to hunt dolphins there. Very few people are making a living off of the dolphin business.

Even if dolphin hunting is protected by the government, the number of people involved in the dolphin business is quite small compared to the whole Japanese population. Times are changing. The tendency to ban the use of dolphins is now widespread all over the world.

There are 12 dolphin hunters in Taiji. The top four say “catch dolphins as much as possible,” but some of the other eight feel less aggressive.

Currently, aquariums are closing down all over the world, many people are against the cruel pet business, and vegans are increasing; dolphin hunters are being worried about their business when they see the world.

Someday in the future, the Taiji dolphin hunting and the Taiji Whale Museum will be a history of bad customs. At that time, I think the amazingness of its people and the magnificence of its natural environment will be highlighted.

Taiji has beautiful nature, mountains, ocean and clean water, so sea creatures such as dolphins and whales approach. Such a beautiful place.

I think it would be awesome if fixed nets and dolphin drive hunting are gone from Taiji, dolphins/whales can visit there freely. We can see whales swimming from the cape of Taiji.

Such a place is not quite in Japan. That’s why I think Taiji should change. I want to be one of the powers to stand on the animal side as much as possible and turn bad things into better ones.

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