The Dall's Porpoise Disaster

Japanese coastal fishermen kill around 20,000 dolphins, porpoises, pilot and beaked whales each year. However, since the IWC ban on whaling, one species, the Dall''s porpoise, has been the principle target of Japanese hunters.

The IWC''s Scientific Committee has repeatedly voiced concern that the Dall’s porpoise hunt is unsustainable. In 1990, the IWC passed a resolution calling on Japan to reduce the kill to at least pre-1986 levels, or between 8-10,000 per year. Although Japan introduced restrictions to reduce the kill, it quickly increased and remains to this day around double the recommendations made at that time. Approaching half a million Dalls porpoises have been slaughtered since commercial whaling was banned in 1986. This year a further 18,000 will be harpooned by Japanese fishermen as they bow-ride the hunting boats.

In addition to the massive increase in Japan''s Dall''s porpoise hunts, it has been estimated that at least 10,000 Dall''s porpoises are killed in Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean drift-net fisheries each year.

Dall''s Porpoise - Natural History
Description: length: 1.8-2.4 metres (6-7 foot) Weight: up to a maximum of 350lb (160 kg) Food: hake and squid. Range: Limited to cooler Pacific waters from north-east to north-west. Tend to school in small groups of 10-15 animals. Of the two types of Dall''s porpoise, the P.truei type is believed to be a regional colour variation of P. dalli and is not considered a separate species.

The hunt

Large scale hunting of Dall''s porpoise has taken place in Japanese waters for around 50 years. In the early years, the hunt operated from the Iwate coast of northern Honshu. However, it soon expanded to Hokkaido. The average annual kill of Dall''s porpoise was between 5-10,000 animals during the 1960-70''s. However, in 1988, when coastal minke whaling was halted, this figure quadrupled to over 40,000 animals.

The hunt takes place nearly all year round, with different seasons for the different sea areas. In Iwate prefecture the hunt is from November 1st-April 31st, and in Hokkaido, May 1st-June 15th and August 1st-October 31st. Dall''s porpoise are killed with hand thrown harpoons. The animals are attracted to boats and are harpooned as they bow-ride. The harpoon has a float attached so that the fishermen can continue to hunt the same group of animals leaving the harpooned animals to be collected later. Often the harpooned porpoise will be gaffed and hauled aboard and left to die on the floor of the boat through shock and blood-loss. Electricity may be used as a secondary killing method and this raises further serious welfare concerns.

Campaign Whale demands
Japan has killed around 10,000 great whales and around 500,000 dolphins and porpoises during the IWC ban on commercial whaling. Unfortunately, the whalers block moves for the IWC to regulate catches of small cetaceans (smaller whale, dolphin and porpoise species). These small whales are under serious threat from hunting, climate change, chemical pollution, entanglement in fishing gears, commercial over-fishing, and noise pollution, including lethal military sonar.

The IWC moratorium has created a market for dolphin or "whale-like" meat in Japan that has escalated out of control. The Dall''s porpoise is victim to a similar level of gross over-exploitation that pushed so many of the world''s whale populations to the brink of extinction. Meanwhile, recent scientific analysis reveals that Dall''s porpoise and other whale and dolphin meat on sale in Japan is so heavily contaminated by toxic pollutants that it poses a serious risk to public health.

In 2001, the IWC passed Resolution 2001/12, calling on Japan to ''halt directed takes of Dall''s porpoises until a full assessment (of the population) by the Scientific Committee has been carried out''. The IWC has repeatedly called upon the Japanese government to reduce the Dall''s porpoise kill until the status of the population can be determined. Unfortunately, the Japanese are refusing to supply this data or suspend the hunt.

Campaign Whale and the Environmental Investigation Agency are calling for an immediate halt to the Dall''s porpoise hunt and other hunts for small cetaceans by Japanese fishermen. Campaign Whale is also calling for a global ban on the sale of whale and dolphin meat on public health grounds.

Campaign Whale will be attending the IWC meeting in Anchorage in May 2007 to press for an end to the Dall''s hunt and for greater protection for all small cetaceans.

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