Scott: Keith is with me now. And you are working on a story about a controversial tradition in Japan, right? Keith: Yeah, Scott. It is an annual dolphin hunt. And this year, it is getting more attention because of comments made by a high profile U.S. official. Take a look. This video from Japan, at a famous spot called Taiji Cove, reportedly captures the controversial form of fishing called ‘drive hunt’. Dolphins are herded together by boats into an area where they can’t escape. This way, hundreds can be caught at once. Critics say the practice is inhumane because of the number of dolphins that get killed in the process and because of the threat it poses to the animal’s population. Some of these dolphins will be sold for big money, says Paul Watson, founder of the conservation group Sea Shepherd. Paul Watson: The only reason that this dolphin drive is really happening in Taiji is because of the demand from aquariums – marine aquariums – around the world. And it’s really a dolphin enslavement, really, just for the amusement of people. Keith: Perhaps most valuable in this round-up, a rare albino calf which Watson says might fetch a half-a-million dollars from a marine park or aquarium. By law, Japanese fishermen can harvest up to 2,000 dolphins every year. About 20% of those captured are sold to aquariums. The rest are released or used as food. In America, it is illegal to import animals from drive hunts. Sea World said they stopped acquiring these dolphins in 1993. But there is still plenty of demand from outside the U.S. This week, the hunt was back in the international spotlight when the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, tweeted her disapproval, saying she was, “deeply concerned by inhumane-ness of drive hunt dolphin killing”. Despite the outrage, the hunt continued. About 500 dolphins in total were rounded up. The Japanese were quick to respond and defend the hunt as a long-standing local tradition, and said it is no different than the slaughter of other animals for meat. Watson has been called an eco-terrorist because he has been aggressive and confrontational in the past. But this time, he is trying a different approach to get people on his side. He live-streamed the hunt on his website. Paul Watson: Our strategy with this is to, really, utilize the most powerful weapon that’s ever been invented – and that’s the camera. Keith: The global community has banned commercial whaling, but there isn’t a similar law for dolphins, partly because of opposition from Japan. Scott: Thanks, Keith.
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January 22, 2014