Half a Million Dall’s Porpoises Killed in Japan Since the 1960’s, Slaughter Continues

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Dall’s porpoises are stunningly beautiful, and are known for their incredible speed and agility – but they are no match for modern ships and lethal harpoons thrown by the hands of Japanese fishermen.

These porpoises can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour.

From the Environmental Investigation Agency:

The port of Otsuchi, in northern Japan, is the focal point of the hand harpoon hunt which has claimed up to 15,000 Dall’s porpoises in a single year; this year’s hunt began on November 1st.
“In the past 20 years, more than 300,000 Dall’s porpoises have been hunted just to produce toxic meat for human consumption,” said EIA Senior Campaigner Clare Perry.
“Most Japanese people know nothing of the Dall’s hunt and yet they continue to be misled about it, both in regard to the true nature of the resulting products and to the very serious health risks of eating such contaminated meat.
“The only impediment to this year’s hunt taking place appears to be the physical damage to the industry caused by the tsunami; there’s certainly nothing to indicate any significant change in official Japanese attitudes – and nothing at all to stop them embarking on this dreadful hunt once conditions again make it possible.”

Since catch records began in the early 1960s, more than half a million Dall’s porpoises have been deliberately killed in Japan’s coastal waters. It is the largest direct hunt of any whale, dolphin or porpoise species in the world.
Large scale hunting of Dall’s porpoises has taken place in Japanese waters for about 50 years. The average annual kill was between 5,000-10,000 animals during the 1960s and ’70s, but this rose to more than 40,000 after the IWC ban on commercial whaling in 1986. The ban saved many whale species from certain extinction, but unwittingly resulted in a new threat to Dall’s porpoises when Japan’s whaling companies turned to it to replace the minke whales they were no longer allowed to hunt. Dall’s porpoises were also traded to the south of Japan, where over-hunting of striped dolphins had left a market demand for dolphin-type meat.

More on Dall’s porpoises (Phocoenoides dalli):

These porpoises are usually found in groups averaging between 2-20 individuals, but have been occasionally seen in larger, loosely associated groups in the hundreds or even thousands of animals. They are known to associate with Pacific white-sided dolphins and short-finned pilot whales, but have also been seen bowriding on large rorquals (whales in the Balaenopteridae family). As rapid, gregarious swimmers, they are also attracted to fast moving vessels and commonly bowride.

Characteristic ‘rooster tail’ of water caused by the fast swimming Dall’s. (CC Photo)

They feed on small schooling fish (e.g., anchovies, herring, and hake), mid- and deep water fish (e.g., myctophids and smelts), cephalopods (e.g., squid and octopus), and occasionally crabs and shrimp. Feeding usually occurs at night when their prey vertically migrate up toward the surface. Dall’s porpoises are capable of diving up to 1640 feet (500 m) in order to reach their prey. They have 38-56 very small spade-shaped teeth on each jaw that are useful for grasping. Their brisk surfacing while swimming creates a “rooster tail” of water spray that is a unique characteristic of the species.  (NOAA)
What you can do: go to Save Japan Dolphins, they need your help!

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