• Don Lichterman

Commercial whale hunting begins in July for the first time in three decades on 'A Whale of A Week'

Plaintiffs ask Wakayama court to halt permits for Taiji dolphin hunts, citing Japan's animal cruelty laws

The Wakayama District Court began hearing arguments Friday over whether dolphin hunting violates animal cruelty laws.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to stop the permits from being issued.

Wakayama Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka issues the permits for the town of Taiji, where the hunts have drawn protests. Taiji is also known for its centuries-old whaling traditions.

The 2009 Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” showed the town’s hunts, where dolphins were chased into a cove and bludgeoned to death, turning the waters blood red. In recent years, they changed their hunting method to suffocation.

The plaintiffs, a former Taiji resident and activist Ren Yabuki, and supporters of the case, say the killings remain traumatic and painful, despite the new method.

Wakayama conservation official Takashi Uede declined comment on the case but stressed that the prefecture believes the hunts follow the law.

The case does not demand monetary damages but could set a precedent in contesting the legality of the killings, according to Takashi Takano, the lawyer for the plaintiffs. “If these people can’t contest the permit, then who can,” he said.

Taiji officials and fishermen have defended the hunt as tradition and say eating dolphin meat is no different from eating beef or chicken. However, the hunts are also lucrative in that some dolphins are sold into captivity at aquariums and marine shows.

The government stands behind commercial whaling and is pulling out of the International Whaling Commission. Whalers are making plans to resume commercial hunting in July, for the first time in three decades.

Taiji is expected to be one of the Pacific coastal towns joining the whaling fleet.

You Can Help Whales by Supporting the The Marine Mammal Center's Scientists

Friend, looking at this image, how can you not feel the weight of this situation? More than 10 dead whales in just two months.

If you’ve seen the Washington Post, ABC News, or NBC Bay Area lately you’ve probably been struck by the news of so many gray whales dying in San Francisco Bay.

Click here to help gray whales and be a part of the The Marine Mammal Center!

Our chief research pathologist Dr. Padraig Duignan explains,“by investigating deaths like this, we are able to identify and respond to rapidly changing environmental trends that are impacting marine mammal populations.”

Friend, the clues are telling us that human activity is playing a role in these threats, like ship strikes and decreasing food availability, that whales are facing.

And scarce food out in the wild has harmed other marine mammals too. That’s partly why so many seal and sea lion pups have been rescued by the Center, skinny and in desperate need of care. Friend, it’s not all bad news because our scientific experts are hard at work. With support from people like you, they can investigate why these whales are dying and what you and I can do to protect marine mammals.

You will feel proud knowing your gift will be supporting this critical work.

Friend, we may not be able to add more fish to the sea, but together you and I can create hope.

Your gift today will support rigorous scientific investigations and develop solutions to end human-caused threats to these fragile animals.

I want to support scientific investigation and find solutions!

She's survived terrible tragedy, but now she may be close to death.

Princess Angeline (also known as J17), a 42-year old southern resident orca matriarch, has developed a severe condition known as ‘peanut head.' This happens when an orca has depleted nearly 100% of its fat reserves. Few orcas are able to come back from this level of starvation.

The drone that captured images of Princess Angeline's grave condition also showed that her youngest daughter, Kiki (J53), is in declining health.

Defenders of Wildlife is working overtime with local officials to help these whales – but this crisis is stretching our resources to the limit.

Your support will help fuel urgent efforts to save starving orcas and other wildlife in jeopardy.

You know just how remarkable these intelligent, social animals are.

It's been a tragic year for J17's family. Not only is her youngest daughter Kiki now in poor health, but she is also the mother of Tahlequah (J35), the southern resident orca who gave birth to a baby last summer that died minutes later. She then carried her dead calf on her head for 17 days on a "tour of grief."

We're running out of time to help the last southern resident orcas.

What makes this news truly heartbreaking is that J17 was seen as recently as early April, and scientists said her condition appeared to have improved since her last sighting in December/January.

Here's the problem: an adult orca needs almost 400 pounds of unpolluted salmon, ideally chinook salmon, every single day to stay healthy.

But due to habitat loss and dams on the lower Snake River that block their spawning grounds, chinook salmon populations in the region are crashing, creating a disaster for orcas. To make matters worse, pollution from Seattle and other urban centers is carried by rainwater directly into orca habitat.

The Defenders of Wildlife will help us lead the fight by working with local and national officials to stop deadly water pollution, restore salmon habitat, and remove barriers to spawning. But time's running out for us to change the ending for this starving orca family.

These extraordinary orcas are a special part of our country's natural heritage. It would be a crime against nature to let them slip away.

Also, renew your 2019 Oceana membership or help support Oceana’s work to save starving Southern Resident orcas and our oceans – There’s still time to prevent this tragedy and your support will make a real difference.