Ten Years after Taiji Orca Capture

* 1997 Taiji Orca Capture*

Ten years have past since five orcas were captured in Taiji.

The background to the incident was reported by IKAN (Sorry it was written in Japanese languege only).

Shortly after the capture, in June of the same year (1997), the youngest baby, and a female that had been assumed to be pregnant, died one after another in an aquarium called the Adventure World .


*Three out of the five captured orcas have already died*

Furthermore, a male (called "Q-chan") that had also been sent to the Adventure World died two years ago (2005), leaving only two out of the five orcas.

One of the two survivors, "Coo", owned by the Taiji Whale Museum has been lent to the Nagoya Public Aquarium under a five-year contract. The other one, a female named "Asuka", was transported to the Mito Sea Paradise in Izu as a companion to "Yamato", a male orca from Iceland , but she was left alone when Yamato died in 2000.


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Coo


asuka2006
Asuka


*Free the Taiji orca to the ocean*

Our desire is to bring the two survivors together and rehabilitate them to return back in the ocean. For that purpose, we have drawn up a plan and carried out a campaign.


*Did the pod survive?*

The original number of orcas that belonged to the same pod was ten. A large male and female, the latter assumed to be the mother of the young orca, and another male and female that seemed to be a little younger, were released shortly after the capture. Unfortunately their future as a pod was doubtful after depriving them of so many younger generations. We don't know if they have survived or not, let alone their present whereabouts. Rumor had it that somebody caught them and processed the meat, which was sold in Osaka. An NGO investigation actually found out that some orca meat was distributed in the market at that time.

Another mystery is that the number of orcas captured for academic purposes in that year was six, according to the Fisheries Agency's Stock Assessment, but nobody can explain where and how the sixth orca was kept after the capture. That makes us question the credibility of the stock assessment itself.

Orca capture in Taiji Town.

Inflicted scar by the capture.

Loading the orca from the sea onto the truck.

*Biology of the orca in the coastal ocean of Japan*
There is little information on orca biology and this is no more than obvious when you see the Fisheries Agency's Stock Assessment. According to the report, the population is 1,600 on the Pacific side and 721 in the Okhotsk Sea. But these estimates are only calculated by "proportional analogy with other species" using figures gained from visual countings of other species.

On the contrary, individual recognition and other studies are almost completed for the U.S. West Coast orcas. In 1970s, when research was initially conducted out of concern that capture for aquariums might have been reducing the orca population, it was originally estimated to be several thousands. Then, the individual recognition revealed that the population was actually around 1000 even when migratory populations were added to resident orcas. Back to Japan, it can be assumed that the actual population would be also smaller, considering the reported number of the captured orcas in the past.

Individual recognition of orcas is noto so difficult and small-scale research has already been done by the non-governmental sector. These are not adequate, but a full research would not be launched in Japan on species of such low value as natural resource.


*For academic purposes?*

The Fisheries Agency's assessment raises a concern that there might be loss in some of the orca populations in the coastal ocean of Japan. The Agency's own assessment categorizes the orca into a rare species, which means capture should be prohibited except for academic purposes. Despite this, in 1997, the animals were traded at tens of million yen each, and used for shows and attractions, a fact we cannot forget.

There is almost no information on types and size of the orca populations, specific sea areas they live, etc. We don't believe that any data collection from captured orcas should contribute to the research in this field.

Although no application has been recently sent for the permission to capture an orca, we need to stay alert in case any opportunistic person becomes interested in an animal traded at such high price. We should also note that the Fisheries Agency expressed its position that they would not refuse all the applications for academic purposes.

In 1993, Japan became the first country to ratify the Biodiversity Treaty. Our Basic Law on Fishery proclaims the conservation of biodiversity, and boasts of sustainable use or resources on scientific grounds. You might feel it is absolutely out of question that the same country still permits the capture of a rare animal species, which should be regarded as common property of the world, based on such an ambiguous and crude understanding.


*Biology of the orca in the coastal ocean of Japan*
There is little information on orca biology and this is no more than obvious when you see the Fisheries Agency's Stock Assessment. According to the report, the population is 1,600 on the Pacific side and 721 in the Okhotsk Sea. But these estimates are only calculated by "proportional analogy with other species" using figures gained from visual countings of other species.

On the contrary, individual recognition and other studies are almost completed for the U.S. West Coast orcas. In 1970s, when research was initially conducted out of concern that capture for aquariums might have been reducing the orca population, it was originally estimated to be several thousands. Then, the individual recognition revealed that the population was actually around 1000 even when migratory populations were added to resident orcas. Back to Japan, it can be assumed that the actual population would be also smaller, considering the reported number of the captured orcas in the past.

Individual recognition of orcas is noto so difficult and small-scale research has already been done by the non-governmental sector. These are not adequate, but a full research would not be launched in Japan on species of such low value as natural resource.