Underwatertimes.com News Service - November 26, 2007 15:01 EST

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition announced today that the proposed export of twelve live dolphins ("the Taiji Twelve") from Taiji, Japan to Ocean World theme park in the Dominican Republic has been cancelled.

"The Dominican Republic government should be applauded for their role in stopping this cruel and inhumane dolphin import," stated David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project.

He continued: "The shameful actions of the Taiji Whale Museum are finally being exposed to the world. More and more nations are realizing that buying live dolphins from Japan is subsidizing the appallingly cruel dolphin drive fishery."

"The people of the Dominican Republic should be proud of their President," said Susan Millward, Research Associate with the Animal Welfare Institute. "By taking this stand, President Leonel Fernandez is preserving his country's international reputation as a world leader in conservation and custodian of its rich waters including the Silver Banks, one of the globe's premier places to view cetaceans in the wild, where these gentle whales and dolphins belong," she added.

"Canceling this sale is a very important step in shutting down the traffic in live show dolphins from Japan," notes Richard O'Barry, Save Japan Dolphins Coalition's Marine Mammal Specialist and former trainer of the TV-star Flipper. "We must not allow the Japan Fisheries Agency and those who slaughter dolphins to profit from selling 'show quality' dolphins overseas for millions of dollars."

The so-called dolphin drive fisheries take place in some remote Japanese coastal fishing communities from September until April each year. The dolphin hunt is extremely brutal. Whalers take boats out to deep water where the dolphins migrate. When they locate a pod of dolphins, they lower stainless steel poles into the water and beat the poles with hammers. The noise creates a wall of sound underwater and sets the dolphins into a state of panic, which enables the whalers to drive the dolphins into a hidden lagoon.

Once trapped in the lagoon, the dolphins are doomed. The whalers force them into shallow water and, driving sharp fishermen's hooks into the dolphins' bodies and stabbing them with butcher knives, they bleed the animals to death. The dolphins take several minutes to die. As the water turns red with blood, they thrash about in pain, emitting loud whistles and cries.

"This is the largest dolphin slaughter in the world, and the cruelest thing that I have ever witnessed in my 40 years of working with dolphins," says Richard O'Barry, "The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition has pledged to end this hunt once and for all."

The slaughter of dolphins for meat is subsidized by the high cost of live dolphins sold to aquariums and "swim-with-dolphins" programs around the world. A dead dolphin is worth about $600 on the Japanese market for meat. Live dolphins sell for $50,000 or more.

The campaign to stop the dolphin slaughter is a joint project of Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute, In Defense of Animals, and Animal Welfare Institute.