Japan Prince Akishino Supports JAZA Decision!
By Mark J. Palmer
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
Japan’s Emperor and his royal family are still very much revered in Japan. However, it is a surprise to hear one speak out on an issue publicly, and now Japan’s Prince Akishino has stated his support for the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) ending the buying of dolphins from Taiji’s bloody dolphin hunts.
Prince Akishino is the second son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, and so second in line for the Japanese Chrysanthemum Throne. Prince Akishino studied law and biology in Gakushuin University, and went on to specialize in fish biology at Oxford University, but received his PhD in ornithology. According to Wikipedia, he introduced the fish tilapia to Thailand for aquaculture. Along with many other honors, he is President of JAZA.
According to Kyodo News: “On the first day of the meeting, Prince Akishino, who serves as president of the association, expressed concern over expected hardships for aquariums with dolphins, but he also said JAZA's decision is likely to generate positive consequences in the future.” Reportedly, participants were taken aback by Prince Akishino’s outspokenness on the issue.
According to the story, JAZA held a two-day annual meeting in Osaka. Despite rumors beforehand, none of JAZA’s member aquariums quit the organization over the decision at the meeting, although several have expressed concern that they will have trouble getting more dolphins for their aquariums as their current animals die off.
JAZA was suspended in April by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) over its continued flaunting of WAZA’s code of ethics, which opposed buying dolphins from Taiji caught in the cruel drive hunts. WAZA’s decision to take action came after many organizations and thousands of individuals have urged WAZA to dump JAZA. In 2004, Earth Island Institute’s Save Japan Dolphins Campaign and the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan revealed the role of aquariums in buying live Taiji dolphins at high prices, an order of magnitude more than a dolphin could be sold for meat, resulting in a huge subsidy of the dolphin hunters by the captivity industry. JAZA held a vote last week, with a majority agreeing to end buying dolphins from Taiji and remain members in good standing with WAZA.
Prince Akishino’s support for JAZA’s decision is the most important support we have yet seen in Japan for the dolphins. Perhaps he and the royal family are getting fed up with the Japan Fisheries Agency making the country a global pariah over whale and dolphin policies? He and the royal family can help Japan move away from the dolphin and whale slaughter and towards a more scientific and supportive function for Japan in the global community around marine mammals.
Photo of Cove dolphin hunt courtesy of Oceanic Preservation Society.