Fears grow for Minke whale trapped for two weeks in fishing nets in Taiji, Japan

By : Humane Society International January 6, 2021

Daily drone-filming by lone activist could be saving whale from slaughter

Concerns are mounting for a minke whale entrapped in a fishing enclosure in Taiji, Japan on Christmas Eve. Today marks two weeks since the adolescent whale began its ordeal. The situation is drawing global attention as the ocean giant becomes increasingly distressed and unable to break free. Fears are growing that the fishermen intend to kill the whale and only the presence of lone Japanese activist, Ren Yabuki, is stopping this as he films the whale every day.

HSI's Animal Welfare Program Manager, Ms Georgie Dolphin, said, "This minke whale has now been trapped in the nets for two weeks, becoming increasingly distressed and agitated, ramming the nets and deep diving in an effort to escape. We fear time is now running out for the whale who will be getting weaker by the day. Intentionally subjecting these leviathans to prolonged suffering is inhumane and unjustified. HSI is hoping the Japanese authorities will insist on the immediate release of the whale today.”

VIDEO of the whale at day 12 and day 13 of being trapped.

HSI contacted the Japanese Fisheries Agency (JFA) who told us that they are asking the Wakayama Prefecture Government to release the whale if it is possible and safe. We gather the fishermen are claiming safety issues and concern over the tides. HSI fears the delays could cost the whale its life.

Ms Dolphin, said, "HSI is concerned commercial interests are at play. A number of whales are trapped in fishing nets every year around the Japanese coast and killed for meat which is sold commercially. In fact Japan allows for minke whales caught as 'bycatch' in nets as part of its commercial whaling operations. Deliberately entrapping whales for prolonged periods is inhumane and we hope the people of Japan will speak out against this cruelty.”

HSI is grateful for the dedicated efforts of the Japanese NGO Life Investigation Agency (LIA) who have been documenting the situation daily, working in collaboration with Dolphin Project. LIA are also documenting the dolphin drive hunts that take place there, at the Taiji cove.

This recent drone footage by LIA clearly demonstrates the minke whale's plight and shows the whale has moved into the innermost section of the enclosure owned by the Taiji Fisheries Cooperative.

Ms Dolphin concluded, "HSI notes that safety concerns and the tides did not prevent the fishermen from driving a pod of striped dolphins straight past the trapped whale into the Taiji cove today.”

Taiji is a small town in the Wakayama Prefecture that has made its name as the largest exporter of wild-caught dolphins in the world. The dolphin hunters use the cruel drive hunting technique to corral them into the infamous Cove, selecting some for captivity and slaughtering others for their meat. The hunters search for dolphins each day from September 1st for the six-month season, causing immense animal suffering, and the demand for captive dolphins for entertainment around the world is the key motivator for the continuation of the Taiji slaughter.

Media contacts:

  • Australia: Georgie Dolphin, HSI Australia animal welfare program manager: georgie@hsi.org.au 
  • UK: Wendy Higgins, HSI director of international media: whiggins@hsi.org

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