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News | Stopping IMATA Trainers From Participating In the Cruel Taiji Dolphin Captures | Marine Mammal Project
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| Mark J. Palmer, Int'l Marine Mammal Project

I have just returned from Nassau in the Bahamas, where the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA) is having their convention.

IMATA is the association representing the people who train dolphins, belugas, orcas, seals and sea lions in marine shows in aquariums around the world.  They are strongly pro-captivity for these unique marine beings.

I went there to deliver a letter in person from the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign of Earth Island Institute – a letter endorsed by many individual scientists and marine activists as well as a host of organizations working to protect the oceans and marine mammals.

Our message is simple: We are asking IMATA to follow the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums in denouncing the captures of dolphins during the horrendous Taiji dolphin drive hunts going on right now in Japan, and further to take action against its members who participate in the capture, training, selling or buying, and otherwise involved in removing these dolphins from their families and subsidizing the brutal hunts by paying top dollar for “show quality” dolphins.

In 2013, IMATA posted a weak statement condemning the killing of dolphins in Taiji, but they do not denounce their colleagues who help the hunters by paying for and catching live dolphins for a life in captivity, torn from their families who are butchered. 

Their statement goes further to say: ”Claims that international and Japanese aquariums are driving the demand for the Taiji drive fishery to continue are false.”   In fact, it is well known that the high premiums paid by the captive industry for live dolphins (as much as $150,000 or more) is far more money than the hunters get for a dolphin carcass for the meat trade (about $500 to $600). 

IMATA then states the importance of “extending membership to individuals who work for organizations that acquire dolphins from a drive fishery.”  These individuals should be finding other jobs, not contributing to the destruction of dolphins that they claim to “love.”

IMATA further claims:  “Extremist groups that oppose having any marine mammals in human care in zoos, aquariums, and marine parks target IMATA by using misinformation and emotional appeal for funding support, often through social media campaigns.”  This false claim is right out of the playbook of SeaWorld, to smear organizations like Earth Island Institute that work to protect marine life and prevent the incarceration of dolphins and whales in small concrete tanks to do circus tricks for the public.

Here is the text of our letter and a list of endorsements:

We the undersigned organizations and scientists respectfully urge the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA) to take action against the brutal and unscientific dolphin drive hunts conducted in Taiji, Japan.

Specifically, we ask that:

A. IMATA should renounce the Taiji dolphin drive hunt's capture of cetaceans BOTH for slaughter and for live animal sale to captivity facilities.   Both practices completely fail to meet anti-cruelty and ethical practice standards that IMATA should subscribe to.  The hunts are conducted under quotas that are never met, and these populations of dolphins have never been adequately studied.  Funds from sale of dolphins for captivity help subsidize the hunts.

B. IMATA must immediately require that its members cease participation in all aspects of the cruel Taiji dolphin drives.  In the same way that the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums has prohibited its members from purchase of any dolphins caught in the Taiji dolphin hunts, IMATA must prohibit its members from any involvement with Taiji dolphins.

C. Any member of IMATA continuing to be involved in activities including the capture, selection, training, transport or exhibition of Taiji-caught dolphins should face expulsion from IMATA.

We encourage IMATA to take action at your IMATA Conference in Nassau this week.  Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.


Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director
Earth Island Institute, International Marine Mammal Project
On behalf of the individuals and organizations listed below:

Individuals Endorsing This Statement:

Dr. Marc Bekoff
Jean-Michel Cousteau
Dr. Toni Frohoff
Mr. John Hargrove
Dr. Lori Marino
Dr. Thomas White

Organizations Endorsing This Statement:

Action for Animals                                                                
Australia for Dolphins
Cetacean Society International
Dolphin Connection
Earth Island Institute
Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations
Great Whale Conservancy
In Defense of Animals
Instituto de Conservacion de Ballenas
Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy
Mammals Encounters Education Research e.V.
Marine Connection
Nantucket Marine Mammal Conservation Program
No Whales in Captivity
Ocean Futures Society
Oceanic Preservation Society
Orca Conservancy
Western Alliance for Nature
Whale & Dolphin Conservation
Whaleman Foundation
Wild Earth Foundation

Wish me luck!  I’ll be reporting what happens.

What You Can Do:


Please sign our petition! 

If your organization would like to endorse our letter, contact us atdolphinproject@earthisland.org

Consider sending a polite email to the President and President-elect of IMATA:

Linda Erb, President  President@IMATA.org

Michele Sousa, President-Elect  PresidentElect@IMATA.org