Subject: Orca:Row breaks out in Japan over c (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Sat, 15 Feb 1997 16:29:01 -0500 (EST)

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Date: Fri, 14 Feb 97 12:40:00 GMT 
Subject: Row breaks out in Japan over c

Row breaks out in Japan over captive killer whales

    By Olivier Fabre
     TOKYO, Feb 13 (Reuter) - A row broke out on Thursday over
the fate of five killer whales destined for Japanese amusement
     Environmentalists demanded the release of the five mammals,
which were among 10 killer whales caught by Japanese fishermen
last week.
     But the Japanese Fisheries Agency said it had the authority
to allow the whales' capture under international quotas set to
catch whales for scientific study.
     The 10 orcas, made famous in the "Free Willy" movies, were
trapped on Friday when a giant net was put across a bay near the
town of Taiji, about 450 km (150 miles) southwest of Tokyo.
     On Wednesday, five of the whales were set free. Fishermen
prodded and lured three others into slings and they were sent to
Adventure SeaWorld in nearby Shirahama.
     Two others remained inside the netted area waiting to be
delivered to another amusement park and a whaling museum.
     The agency gave permission to local fishermen in 1992 to
capture five orcas.
     But the Dolphin and Whale Action Network, an environmental
group, said the fishermen's authority had been nullified in the
meantime by new international laws on scientific whaling which
make orcas a protected species.
     Japan, where whale meat is considered a delicacy, has long
been at odds with many countries over its interpretation of
regulations on catching whales for scientific purposes.
     Critics charge that Japan uses the guise of scientific study
to maintain whale catching for commercial purposes while nearly
all other countries have outlawed the industry.
     There is no suggestion that the five trapped whales are to
be slaughtered.
     But the environmental group said their dispatch to amusement
parks is for tourist purposes, not for scientific study.
     Yukari Surugi, a spokesman with the group, said amusement
parks pay up to 30 million yen ($241,000) for a killer whale.
     He said the life span of killer whales in captivity ranges
from six to seven years, while in the wild they can outlive
human beings.
     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.
     "At Izumito we are currently raising a male killer whale,
and we are interested in breeding, " said Masatoshi Mano, head
of public relations.