Orca capture in Japan - violation against Convention on Biological Diversity (CoBD)? (by Nicolas Entrup)

While international conventions as e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity are signed by several countries, it is very questionable if the actual capture of the ten orcas in Taiji, Japan, is in agreement with that Convention.

It is my understanding that the capture of 5 orcas was permitted by the Japanese Fisheries Agency for scientific research". Olivier Fabre of REUTER`S writes within his MARMAM message that an official of the Izumito Sea Paradise, which has rights to one of the two whales still awaiting transfer, said they purchased their female for breeding purposes". Fabre quotes: At Izumito we are currently raising a male killer whale, and we are interested in breeding,'' said Masatoshi Mano, head of public relations".

Therefore there are two arguments given to justify the capture.


To capture an orca for a captive breeding program is within the CoBD a purpose for an Ex-Situ measure. Criteria for Ex-Situ Conservation are listed under Article 9. Therefore basic criteria for any Ex-Situ program is that it is predominantly for the purpose of complementing In-Situ (protection within their natural habitat) measures. Are there any In-Situ measure steps undertaken by Japan to protect Orca within their natural habitat ? Are there any In-Situ measure steps undertaken by Japan to protect that specific Orca Pod ? If not, taking these orcas are not fullfilling the basic criteria of the CoBD.

Further it is important to look at Article 9 (d) which states regulate and manage collection of biological resources from natural habitats for ex-situ conservation purposes so as not to threaten ecosystems and in-situ populations of species, except where special temporary ex-situ measures are required under subparagraph (c) which states adopt measures for the recovery and rehabilitation of threatened species and for their reintroduction into their natural habitats under appropriate conditions".

Orca Pods are sighted infrequently in Japanese waters. The size of the population is unknown but probably very small. Destroying even one orca family could cause great harm to the Japanese orca population. It is my understanding that NO scientific evaluation of this specific pod and the Japanese Orca population has been done before granting the permit for the capture and before the capture itself. The capture of almost a whole pod will cause extinction or even do enormous harm to this pod. Such an operation is a threat to the In-Situ population and therefore violates against the CoBD.

It is my understanding that till today NO research application has been made by any of the involved dolphinariums. So we have to look at the argument that the orcas got captured for breeding purpose".

As an Ex-Situ measure has to complement In-Situ measures I assume that the captive breeding population and so the programs must be self-sustaining. Several amusement parks and zoological gardens argue that their breeding programs are self-sustaining. Therefore I would like to know why they have to capture orcas from the wild if these programs are successful? Having a look at the reproduction of captive orcas in Japan we have to face the fact that two birth have been recorded. One calf survived about 10 days (conceived in the wild) and one live birth which died the same day. To start (!) talking about a successful captive breeding program assume that the captive population breed regularly in the second and third generation and then it is still critical if the population is self-sustaining. As reproduction of captive orcas is NOT self-sustaining, captive facilities are no valid Ex-Situ measures!

Looking at the statistics of already captured Orcas within japanese waters and taken for amusement parks or zoos, an extremely high mortality rate is fact. From about 14 captured Orcas 11 are already dead.

Regarding Artcile 9.c, we have to be aware that till today NO amusement park or zoological garden has ever released an orca back to its natural habitat.

Summarizing the listed facts I personally come to the conclusion that the actual capture of Orcas in Japan violates against CoBD and has to be stopped. To minimize the damage which is already been done to the wild population these animals has to get immediately released back to the wild and measure steps implemented to protect Orcinus Orca in Japanese waters.

I ask the zoological gardens and amusement parks to dissociate officially from such operations! Also I ask the Japanese authorities to revoke the permit which was given to capture five Orcas and release the captured animals.

The letter was send to the Marine Mammal Discussion group and to the newsgroup animals.alt.dolphin.

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