Japanese aquariums will stop obtaining surviving dolphins from a bloody slaughter exposed in the chilling documentary The Cove.
The Taiji hunt in Japan with its butchered dolphins trapped in blood-red water off the town of Waykama Prefecture shocked viewers of the Academy Award-winning film.
Hunters are licensed to kill up to 2,000 dolphins and porpoises from seven different species in the massive annual hunt that uses boats to drive and trap the animals in the local cove before they're stabbed or speared to death. Most are killed for meat but many are sold to aquariums around the world.
Last month the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Waza) suspended the membership of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Jaza) for violating its code of conduct on animal welfare by buying dolphins from the hunt.
The Earth Island Institute said Japan is the biggest market for captive dolphins, followed by China, the Middle East and Russia. Some 20 dolphins are caught each year at Taiji for Jaza members, according to Waza.
Jaza has now agreed that its members will be barred from taking dolphins from the Taiji hunt and also from participating in their export and sale, reports CNN.
Jaza represents about 150 zoos and aquariums, including Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, one of the largest in the world. Jaza said 99 of its members had voted to stay with Waza in light of the new ban. Smaller aquariums will likely face a difficult time acquiring dolphins but the association is now considering breeding programs to supply animals.
The eco-group Sea Shepherd hailed the ban as "great news for the dolphins of Taiji."
Waza, which represents some 1,300 aquariums around the world, has come under heat itself from activists for its failure to break members' links to the hunt. Conservationists sued the association in a Swiss court earlier this year, charging that aquariums are "complicit" in the annual slaughter because they provide a market for the hunters. The case points to a Waza agreement in 2009 allowing Jaza's acquisition of some animals from Taiji.