Dolphin Slaughter Continues

In the United States its a federal offense to harm a dolphin or any other marine mammal. Japan is one of the few places where dolphins can still be captured in the wild to supply Marine Parks and aquariums.

The dolphin hunts are rarely seen by anyone outside the fishing villages where they happen. But just over a week ago a photographer working for a Japanese environmental group was in the village of Futo when the fishing boats came in, herding dozens of dolphins into a circle of nets, driving them toward shore. CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports:

At first it's a beauty contest of sorts, as fishermen search for the finest examples of the species. These dolphins are lifted out with care.

The reason? A young, healthy bottlenose dolphin can be worth as much as $30,000 with growing demand from aquariums and marine parks around the world.

Once the best have been taken the water begins to fill with blood. Most of the captured animals are about to meet a brutal and heartbreaking end.

The sea runs red with dolphin blood after the massacre.

Those dolphins not young enough or attractive enough for marine parks are sold for meat and fertilizer. Neither brings much money. Some are trucked away still alive.

"It's an unbelievable act of cruelty to an animal that I really love," says Hardy Jones, a documentary film maker, who has photographed the same kind of capture as that occurring last week.

Environmentalists says that without the big profit from marine parks the fishermen wouldn't even bother catching dolphins in the first place.

"And to watch it happen, the only thing I can do is say to myself, 'Take the pictures and get them out so the world can see,'" Jones says.

If the world is outraged, it's because so many have come to know dolphins so well in captivity at parks like Sea World in San Diego.

"People can come here and learn about dolphins, experience them first hand, interact with them personally," says Jim Antrim of Sea World. "I think that's leading to a better level of understanding and appreciation for them."

Sea World's dolphins were bred in captivity. But many foreign parks will pay for those captured in the wild.

Growing international demand means that an animal so loved for its grace and talent, its intelligence and friendliness can pay a terrible price for its popularity.

Environmental groups say scenes like those filmed at Futo will continue unless the Japanese government bans the taking of dolphins. Pictures of a similar capture more than a decade ago brought laws in the United States that forbid importing dolphins captured in the wild. Since dolphincan be bred in captivity, the kind of slaughter that occurred in Futo seems particularly pointless.

For more information about efforts to protect dolphins and other environmental issues, visit the Website of the Earth Island Institute.

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