Thu, Oct 28, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Dolphin activists to meet mayor in ‘The Cove’ town

AFP, TOKYO

Japan’s dolphin-hunting town of Taiji, put under the spotlight in the Oscar-winning eco-documentary The Cove, will host a meeting with environmental activists next week, both sides have confirmed.

Every year fishermen in Taiji herd about 2,000 dolphins into a secluded bay, select several dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks and harpoon the rest for meat, a practice long deplored by animal rights campaigners.

Dolphin activist Ric O’Barry, the central character in The Cove, said yesterday that he had accepted an invitation to join a public discussion on the issue with Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen and the local fisheries union.

Japanese fishermen have defended killing the sea mammals as part of a centuries-old tradition in the island-nation.

“It is obvious that a large gap exists between the town officials and the fishermen of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, and anti-whaling groups now,” said the organizer, called the Association to Contemplate Taiji’s Dolphin Hunt.

“We recognize that there are various cultures, religions and beliefs on Planet Earth, and we would like to begin slowly, by acknowledging each other’s stance,” the group said in a statement announcing the Nov. 2 event.

“A debate on dolphin hunting will likely be unproductive at this juncture, so we have decided that this meeting will be a forum to exchange relevant particulars in the first instance,” the group said.

The meeting, which will be open to the media, but not the wider public for security reasons, will also be joined by representatives of environmental groups Sea Shepherd, the Whaleman Foundation and the World Ocean Fund.

O’Barry, of the Earth Island Institute, who has suggested Taiji promote ecotourism instead of dolphin hunting, said in a statement: “There is a bright future for Taiji without the killing of dolphins.”

“We hope Mayor Sangen has an open mind during this meeting and will see that we can work together for a better future for the dolphins and the people of Taiji,” said O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer for the TV show Flipper.

The association, created with the purpose of setting up the dialogue, said: “We do not know how many years it will take, but we sincerely hope that this meeting is a positive first step for both sides.”

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