Regarding the death of the last orca of the Taiji 5 captured in 1997

Even if we expected this to occur, it is still a great sadness that the female orca "Coo" died, on the 19th of September. Orcas live on the average to be 60 years in the wild – she was estimated to be only 18-19 years old – she did die young, indeed.


In 1997 February, a pod (family) composed of 10 orcas was driven into Hatajiri Bay in Taiji. 5 of them were separated and captured with the permission of the Japanese Fisheries Agency. Since Iceland stopped capturing live orcas in 1990, no country had been capturing live orcas at this time. Therefore this capture had a huge global impact. Staff at the Fisheries Agency and Japanese aquariums later said that they had no way to deal with the endless global protests that came through fax. This event clearly showed that the global trend was against the live capture of wild orcas.

11 years have passed since that incident. The death of Coo, who was a young child when captured, closed the last chapter of the book, the book of Taiji 5.

About Orcas

Orca is one of the top predators in the Ocean, and therefore the number is not very big to begin with. In addition, from the 1950s to the 1970s more than 1000 orcas were captured in Japan's waters for their oil.

Last year at the International Whaling Commission (IWC), a concern was raised that some local pods might be extinct and the necessity for research was demanded. Globally it has been revealed that there are three distinct orca types. Orcas are highly social with groups of pods with a similar dialect forming clans and larger regional communities.

In 2007 a symposium was held, to mark the 10th year of without further orca capture. People reported on the current situation of orcas in Japan and its breeding program. At the symposium, researchers reported that wild orcas do not seem to inhabit the waters in the Pacific south of 40 N.L. However, the symposium in turn brought into light that there was still no understanding of many areas including:

Types of orcas found in Japanese waters; their migration range; and their genetic distinctiveness.

It was also made clear that researching orcas in captivity does not contribute at all to the understanding of living conditions of orcas on the coast. Therefore we can conclude that the "scientific purpose" was but a flimsy excuse for the capture.

However, the Fisheries Agency issued "a resource assessment" this year reporting that an estimated number of 7,512 (CV=0.29) are above 40 degrees north latitude region in the northwestern Pacific, even though they use the same old data from 1992 to 1996 time period that estimated the number to be only 1600 on that report. We are very concerned about the drastic discrepancy in these numbers.

Our demand

We demand the following to the parties involved.

  1. Carry out research on orcas. The research should be conducted by an international and neutral institution and its specialists. The results should be made public.
  2. Have an evaluation done by a third party on the past orca captures and the research. The result should be made public.
  3. Access the orca captivity in Japan from the animal welfare perspective. The result should be made public.
  4. Taiji town in Wakayama Prefecture (Taiji Whale Museum and Isana Fishery Association) and Nagoya Port Aquarium should provide funding to carry out above tasks.