Dolphins given island citizenship to protect from slaughter

A pod of dolphins living in the waters of a Japanese island have been declared citizens by local fishermen, in a bid to save them from slaughter

Sixteen dolphins swim in the waters of Toshima Island, 100 miles from Tokyo. Residents and fishermen, who want to protect the creatures from Japan’s annual dolphin slaughter, have named them to be island citizens, therefore fully protecting them within the island’s waters.

The dolphin drive hunt in Taiji takes place every year from September and sees thousands of dolphins killed for human consumption or captured for sale to aquatic parks.

The Toshima Dolphin Project wants to demonstrate that despite this tradition some Japanese communities revere and care for wild dolphins, and it wants to raise awareness of the importance of allowing dolphins to remain free and safe.

Japan’s Elsa Nature Conservancy campaigns vigorously for the protection of dolphins, and has pledged support to the Toshima Dolphin Project. The Conservancy claims that the tradition of the dolphin slaughter is founded on unsubstantiated beliefs.

“Regular dolphin drive hunts date back only 42 years to 1969 when pilot whales were captured on a large scale for display at the Taiji Whale Museum,” said a spokesperson from the Conservancy. “Currently only 8.5% of the people in the town are employed in the fisheries, and only about 100 people at most depend on whaling-related activities for their livelihood. Records and data do not support the contention that Taiji is a whaling town that cannot survive without whaling.”

Toshima Island’s first dolphin residents were Koko and Piko, a mother and baby that arrived in Toshima waters in 1995 and were declared island citizens in 1998. The remaining 14 newly-declared citizens have been swimming in the island’s waters since 2010.