Island of Dolphin PassionĀ 

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Vol. 006

Tatsunoshima Island of Dolphin Passion

Date taken
February - May. 2016

These days, we often hear stories of dolphins being rescued by humans and vice versa. However, a long time ago, the relationship between dolphins and humans deteriorated, and nearly 1,000 dolphins were slaughtered at once on the island of Iki in Nagasaki.

This is the case commonly called the "Iki dolphin incident. Now, let me take you all to the uninhabited island called "Iki-gun, Tatsunoshima" where the incident took place.

(The sandy beach of the uninhabited island of Tatsunoshima. In summer, it is a popular beach for swimming..)

Here's how it happened.
I have at hand a booklet called "The Port Culture of Katsumoto Port" written by Mr. Toshio Ishii of Katsumoto Fishing Port. Speaking of Katsumoto Fishing Port, it is the very existence of the party involved in the "Iki dolphin incident" itself. The photo on the right has also been reprinted from the booklet, "Port Culture" of Katsumoto Port.
First of all, let me give you an excerpt from this booklet about the incident.


"The Port Culture of Katsumoto Port."

"It was from around 1965 that dolphins rapidly increased in the Iki Sea area and fishery damage occurred one after another. At that time, an ecological survey of dolphins was conducted, and as a result it was announced that 300,000 dolphins were migrating in the waters around Iki from February to March. The damage caused by dolphins is that when dolphins migrate to the fishing grounds where fishing boats are operating, schools of fish escape, fish on the way to be caught are intercepted, fishing gear is damaged, and while the dolphins are in the fishing grounds, there is no catch every day.
When dolphins approached the waters around Katsumoto in large numbers, the fishermen banded together and about 500 fishing boats stopped operations and formed a circle, hammering iron sounders attached to the bellies of the boats to drive them to the shore. Later, underwater fireworks were invented and succeeded in driving some of the dolphins into the sea.
In 1978, when about 1,000 dolphins were driven in at one time, a foreigner from an animal rights group came and cut the dolphin enclosure net, causing some of the dolphins to escape.
Nowadays, only a very small number of dolphins appear, and it is a seventh wonder where all those dolphins are migrating to."


(A cenotaph for slaughtered dolphins built in May 1978. In the photo with the cenotaph is Ms. M, who will be guiding us around Tatsunojima this time.Mr. M, who was a high school student at the time of the dolphin incident, said he participated in the killing of the dolphins as a part-time worker.)

In the text, the "foreigner from the animal rights group" is the other party, "Dexter London Kate". He came to us from Hilo, Hawaii, with a new ethic of "animal rights advocacy.
"There is a difference between "animal welfare" and "animal rights." 'Animal rights advocacy' is about recognizing and protecting the same rights for animals as for humans, a concept that was (and still is) not well known at the time. Therefore, Kate's argument must have sounded like an outlandish accusation to the Katsumoto fishermen.

"Oh, that guy. I was the head of the youth section of the fishing cooperative at the time, and he must have been completely out of his mind." (from "Swimming with Dolphins, Eating Dolphins" by Hiroto Kawabata)

At that time, the yellowtail and squid fisheries were thriving in Katsumoto Town in Iki, but when the dolphins migrated, the squid and yellowtail disappeared from the fishing grounds just as the dolphins arrived. Not only that, but the dolphins would devour squid fishing traps set in the middle of the night and the fish caught in them before humans could retrieve them.
The fishermen of Katsumoto could no longer make a living. In order to exterminate the dolphins, the fishermen of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture and Futo in Shizuoka Prefecture were asked to teach the fishermen how to drive the dolphins into the sea.

So let's listen to what Kate has to say.
1)The fishing grounds that the fishermen of Iki claim as their own have been feeding grounds for dolphins for thousands of years. It is not right for humans to come along later and treat dolphins as an obstacle.
2) The decline in catches is not due to the dolphins, but to the fact that the fishing grounds themselves are becoming poorer due to overfishing.
3) Dolphins are smart animals and can coexist with humans. If we lead well, dolphins and humans can work together to obtain their catch, as in the case of the Mauritanian coast.


(This is the narrowest part of the bay. After the dolphins were driven in, the net was stretched from here to the opposite shore.)

For a time, the fishermen were moved by Kate's enthusiasm and set sail to work with the dolphins, but the dolphins were not there at the time, and the two attempts failed.
As a last resort, Kate proposed a "cultivation plan" to replace the squid and yellowtail fisheries, and a "plan to increase the yellowtail stock" to revive the depleted fishing grounds, but it was already too late, and when he last visited Iki, the dolphin drive fishery had already begun.
It is said that a huge dolphin crusher costing more than 20 million yen was installed on the beach of Tatsu no Shima, that it had already begun operation, and that the sea of Iki was stained red with the blood of dolphins.

(Continue to Whale and Dolphin Travel Vol. 007 / "Dexter Kate's Decision".)