Dolphin Slaughters and Paper Parks

The world recently turned its attention to the tragic and senseless slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan.  The killings occur after the “best” individuals are taken for aquarium and swim-with-dolphin-programs around the world. Rather than release the remainder of the dolphins, they are butchered – barbarically by anyone’s standards.  As if this isn’t bad enough, it occurs in one of Japan’s National Parks.  This sets a new low in my book for a “paper park.”

A “paper park” usually means poor management and enforcement. But the Yoshino – Kumano National Park in Japan, seems to have no problem with the killing of wildlife inside its boundaries.

Marine Conservation Institute advocates for strongly protected areas, ones that are well-enforced and promote effective conservation.

For the past year we have been focused on a new initiative, the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) to improve conservation of marine wildlife around the world. GLORES establishes clear, consistent criteria for determining the most important locations and protection levels needed to save marine species and their habitats from harm. It sets standards that can be used throughout the world to evaluate the effectiveness of marine protected areas.

While the Taiji massacre may seem an isolated problem, it is only one of many examples of weak protections for a sanctuary or park.  In the US we also have examples of weakly protected parks; some of our National Marine Sanctuaries do not restrict damaging fishing methods such as bottom trawling, and in other places around the world, protected areas with poor enforcement have witnessed shark finning on a large scale. Unfortunately, the list is long.

Healthy, living oceans are essential to human survival and prosperity, and protecting marine life in their ecosystems is the best way to maintain the oceans’ biological diversity, abundance and resilience.  Marine protected areas are the most cost-effective way to protect marine life and ecosystems.

GLORES is a strategic, science-based approach to recovering the diversity and abundance of marine life on a global scale. Its goal is catalyzing strong protection for at least 20% of the ecosystems in every marine biogeographic region by 2030.

The world needs a new approach to marine conservation. Science-based and strategic, GLORES creates a unique framework that will foster new levels of collaboration among governments, international governmental organizations and advocacy organizations and incentivize the acceleration of new marine protected areas.

Marine protected areas alone won’t save Japan’s dolphins from being killed, but a global network of protected areas is our best hope for averting mass extinction.


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