Japanese hunters at the infamous Taiji Cove captured a pod of Risso’s dolphins over the weekend — the fifteenth pod of Risso’s caught this season. Sea Shepherd reports that within the pod was a rare albino dolphin, highly prized by the hunters for onselling to aquariums. While the albino and one other dolphin were retained for sale, eleven other members of the pod were immediately slaughtered under the cover of tarps. Three baby Risso’s dolphins who were part of the family group were then taken back out to sea and abandoned to fend for themselves.
Sea Shepherd states that the capture came after an otherwise unsuccessful morning’s hunt on Sunday. As the boats were heading back to shore, they came across the pod of Risso’s and the hunters recognized the value of the albino dolphin immediately. Earlier in the year, during the 2013–14 hunt, another juvenile albino dolphin was captured amid a frenzy of protest. The pod of Risso’s were forced into shore by the stressful driving process, then the majority of the family group were killed while the baby dolphins were collected and taken back out to sea. Without the protection of their mother and the pod, the babies’ chances of survival are slim.
Sea Shepherd volunteer Karen Hagen was on the ground at Taiji on Sunday and also happened to be present when the young albino bottlenose dolphin known as Angel was captured in January. Hagen says: “It is horribly sad to see another albino dolphin taken by the killers here in Taiji. These rare, beautiful, and unique animals will spend the rest of their days confined to small tanks, where they will live out their shortened lives performing tricks for food.” Critics of the brutal annual hunt argue that it is not driven by traditional culinary practices as claimed, but by the lucrative profits to be made selling captured dolphins to aquariums and theme parks worldwide.
The annual Taiji dolphin hunt runs for six months — from September to March. So far this season 15 pods of Risso’s dolphins have been slaughtered, totaling about 170 animals. One pod of bottlenose dolphins and one pod of pilot whales have also been captured and killed. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers are on the ground in Taiji every day during the six-month hunting season bearing witness to this terribly cruel practice.
Photos by Sea Shepherd