Open letter about the new dolphin catch quota

August 31, 2007

Mr.Toshiro Shirasu - Director general, Fisheries Agency
Mr.Hideki Moronuki - Whaling Section, Fisheries Agency

Questions about the new dolphin catch quota

Dolphin hunting will start under the new catch quota on September 1.We have several questions about the new dolphin catch quota that we would like you to answer.

1: Stock Estimate of Dolphins
I would like to mention the difference between the dolphin stock estimates of between 1992 and 2005.

On the Fishery Agency's web site, almost all of the information for the estimated individual number of dolphins was from 1990-1993 except the tentative number of Pacific White-sided Dolphin (2005).

Can we assume that these are the years when you researched and studied dolphins for stock estimates?

We heard from your agency the following:

"The area used for the past dolphin research was not really their actual habitat because Bryde's Whales were heavily researched in that area. Therefore, the agency started specialized dolphin research.
The specialized dolphin research just started last year - in 2006 and the estimate will take some time."

The web site states that sight observation targeting species for fishery was pointed out while the Agency examined the data collected during the research on the stock of large cetacean regarding the 6 species for drive fishery. ( I WAS A LITTLE CONFUSED, I CHANGED IT, PLEASE CHECK, STILL CONFUSING )

Ex.: Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (1992)30,100 (2005)397,515
  Striped Dolphin (1992)22,500 (2005)502,436

2: Different Ways to Manage Steller's Sea Lion and dolphin
There was recently a press release on the conservation and management of Steller's Sea Lion. We were able to read a detailed public report on the ecology of the animals.

The total allowable catch number of Steller's Sea Lions is fixed for protecting fishery while a total allowable catch is not given for dolphins.

Your Agency has set up the catch number based on scientific data from the PBR (potential biological removal) established by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). It seems that this type of management should be the same as the one for dolphins.

However, we believe there is inequality in the way you calculated Steller's Sea Lion and dolphin numbers.

1) The estimated individual number of Steller's Sea Lion was determined after examining the ecology by using airplanes as well as sighting on the land. The final quota was fixed after detailed peer review (examining the data).

But the dolphin catch quota was established, even though the necessary research into their ecology was not carried out.
2) The catch quota of Steller's Sea Lion was determined after taking S&L and bycatch into consideration.

We think the way used to establish the quota for Steller's Sea Lion is superior to one for dolphin because this seems based on the precautionary principle.

We would like to know why your Agency established the quotas in a different manner.

We also would like to know if your Agency plans to keep this method for future catch totals.

Or, do you have any intention of adopting the same method for the dolphin quota?

* We would also like to state that we do not accept the pest hunting of endangered Steller's Sea Lion in Russia.

3. Number of Ships in Operation
We found some wrong information relating to the number of ships listed on the dolphin quota which you sent to Hokkaido and several other prefectures.

Ex: Aomori they have no ships in operation, although the number of permitted ships is written.
  Shizuoka the number of ships with engines for dolphin fishery is 27 in Futo while the list says the number of ships used for the drive fishery is 50.
  Wakayama Taiji Town, where they hunt dolphins, reports they have 9 fishermen who hunt the animals with sticks. Therefore it is a little unreasonable that the list says they have 100 ships in operation.

Also they have now 12 ships for driving dolphins while the list says 17 ships are permitted for hunting.

We hear that the permission papers are traded between ships although the operators are specified by the authority.

We think this act might be illegal...

4. The Contamination of Dolphin Meat and the Investigation
We heard your Agency will examine mercury and PCBs on all parts of all dolphins and pilot whales caught by future drive fishery.We would like to know if you will make the data public.

Also if they are found to contain the substances in excess of the tentative regulated content specified by the Ministry, how would you deal with them?

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare urges pregnant women to be careful when eating bottle nose dolphin, Short-finned Pilot Whale-and Baird's Beaked whale because they might be contaminated with mercury.

Some consumer groups claim that the other toothed whales contain mercury and PCBs in excess of the tentative regulated content as well.

We think the same research and measures would be necessary also in the other areas where they catch dolphins.

How do you plan to conduct the research?

5. Catch Quota of Pacific White-Sided Dolphin
A quota for Pacific White-sided Dolphin was established based on the tentative stock estimate from 2005.

We heard that even some researchers were opposed to your act. Also all of the people who submitted public comments last October mentioned that Pacific White-sided dolphin should not be the target species for catch.

We would like to know why your Agency quickly added them to the list of target species and set up a catch quota in such a situation.

6.Dolphin Hunting in Iki
In Iki, Nagasaki Prefecture dolphins were hunted as pests in the past.The meat and live dolphins were then traded.

We understand that your Agency thinks a new research should be done ahead of the dolphin hunting because the past research in that sea area was not adequate.

However, we hear that you might allow a catch quota in Nagasaki next year, although we haven't heard of any local dolphin ecology research being done there.

Would your Agency possibly give them permission to catch dolphins even ahead of carrying out preliminary ecological research?

If the hunting restarts, which might be done, will it be pest hunting or dolphin hunting?

Kurasawa Nanami - Secretary General            
Iruka and Kujira(Dolphin & Whale) Action Network