During the drive hunts, some dolphins are selected alive by aquaria. Dolphins from these hunts are shipped within Japan and to other international facilities

Don’t Buy A Ticket!

Dolphins in Captivity performing for Humans.

How many dolphins are hunted every year?

Every year over 100,000  dolphins and small whales are killed in hunts across the globe. While the hunts that take place in Japan and the Faroe Islands are well documented, hunts take place in other parts of the world on an almost daily basis.

This issue is challenging to address due to limited information, but it is believed that the number of small whales, dolphins, and porpoises killed far exceeds that of large ones under the pretext of commercial and/or aboriginal whaling. Bycatch remains the major threat facing them today, as well.

Since 1990, at least 114 countries have consumed one or more of 87 species of marine mammals. Still, only a few percent of the small whales, dolphins, and porpoises consumed will ever be reported officially, given the practice’s illegality and the fact that most of the trade is clandestine.

Therefore, any available data on the problem are typically accepted as an underestimate. In countries throughout West Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and Asia, numerous dolphin hunts occur on an almost daily basis.

The reasons for these captures, which can range from single to multiple individuals, differ from place to place, with some citing cultural and traditional beliefs. In some areas, availability of dolphin flesh initially resulted from using dolphins unintentionally caught in fishing nets as bait and/or food; however, the practice has evolved due to both a taste for the meat and the inability to maintain families with food due to over-exploitation of fish resources.

The Cove connects the deadly dolphin drive hunts and captivity.

During the drive hunts, some dolphins are selected alive by aquaria. Dolphins from these hunts are shipped within Japan and to other international facilities, including swim-with-the-dolphin programs in places like China, Ukraine, Turkey, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The Cove
Academy Award® Winner for “Best Documentary of 2009”

A team of activists, filmmakers, and freedivers embark on a covert mission to expose a deadly secret hidden in a remote cove in Taiji, Japan. By utilizing state-of-the-art techniques, they uncover a horrible annual tradition of unparalleled cruelty. A provocative mix of investigative journalism, eco-adventure, and arresting imagery makes this an unforgettable and courageous story that inspires outrage and action.

Get The Cove Study Guide

Learn more and take action to end the dolphin drive hunts

The Cove has done a great deal to expose these hunts. More important is what happens now. We are determined to end this devastating practice by supporting collaborators in Japan and around the globe. You can help.

Learn More

The dolphin drive hunts are deadly.
Dolphins are chased to shore, corralled in a cove, and then selected for marine parks and aquaria, or killed for their meat.
In September of each year, the dolphin drive hunting season begins in Taiji, Japan. Over 2,000 small whales and dolphins may be captured or killed annually. A variety of dolphin species are taken in a brutal process that can last for days.

Over 3,500 copies of The Cove were delivered to households in Taiji, Japan.

Take Action
The drive hunts support the global captivity industry.

The practice of hunting dolphins, particularly in the Taiji region, is alarming.

It is unfortunate that despite the efforts of animal rights groups globally, the number of dolphins caged for marine parks is on the rise.

While most of the hunted dolphins end up as meat, an increasing number of live dolphins are also captured for the incredibly lucrative marine park industry.

These captured dolphins are often shipped off to aquariums and parks all over the world, particularly in the Middle East and Asia. China is the biggest consumer of wild-caught dolphins from Japan, but the sad truth is that any park or facility that cages dolphins ends up being a part of the vicious supply and demand chain fueling this barbaric practice.

It’s astounding to find out that a single live dolphin captured from these hunts can have a hefty price of around $150,000 or more.

‘Swim-With-Dolphins’ Programs

Dolphins are dying to entertain you.

Vacationers who are captivated by dolphins often unwittingly contribute to a cruel industry by buying a “swim-with-dolphins” excursion. These fascinating marine mammals live in misery long after travelers return home with their pictures and memories. In the wild, dolphins swim vast distances every day in extended pods. They use echolocation to navigate in order to determine location and distance. In captivity, even the largest pool feels like a prison to them.

Dolphins have distinct personalities, can recognize themselves in mirrors, and can think about the future. They seek out others whose company they enjoy and avoid those they don’t. An Emory University scientist determined that the relative brain size of bottlenose dolphins is second only to that of humans and that the complexity of the neocortex of many dolphins is comparable to or perhaps even exceeds that of the human brain.

“The scientific research suggests that dolphins are ‘non-human persons’ who qualify for moral understanding as individuals.”

—Thomas White, professor of ethics at Loyola Marymount University

Captive dolphins often die far short of their expected life spans.

Dolphin-Assisted Therapy Debunked

An in-depth study conducted by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society found that dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) programs are fundamentally flawed because there is no conclusive scientific evidence that they have any long-term benefit.

“Despite DAT’s extensive promotion to the general public, the evidence that it produces enduring improvements in the core symptoms of any psychological disorder is nil … there is little reason to believe that DAT is a legitimate therapy or that it constitutes much more than entertainment.”

—Dr. Lori Marino and Dr. Scott O. Lilienfeld

Laws: Few and Far Between

Although captive dolphins in the United States are afforded some minimal protections, programs outside the U.S. are often governed by few, if any, laws. Throughout the Caribbean, dolphins are kept in small pools or polluted sea pens. Debris and trash left in or near these pools, such as plastic bags, sunglasses, or the paper used to wrap the “fish food,” can be ingested by the animals, causing gastrointestinal problems or even death. Driven by greed, many facilities operate almost continuously, giving the animals little respite from a constant stream of tourists.

Cruise Line Culpability

Cruise liners are a significant source of customers for “swim-with-dolphins” programs because cruise lines earn considerable revenue by promoting these onshore excursions.

What You Can Do

  • Review PETA’s factsheet to learn more about the marine mammal industry.
  • Cruise Lines International Association is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association. Ask it to take an ethical stand by urging its members to stop promoting swim-with programs.
  • The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association strongly defends this cruel moneymaker. Please let the organization know that you disagree.
  • Never patronize one of these programs, and ask every cruiser you know not to buy a “swim-with” excursion.


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