Taiji “Whale Farm” will open in 5 years
Taiji, Wakayama, the birthplace of Japanese traditional whaling, is planning to open a “Whale Farm” where whales and dolphins are reared in a bay & visitors can interact with them. It is expected to open in 5 years time and draw 300,000 visitors per year. Criticised since (the premier of) a US movie which shot the traditional hunt with concealed cameras, Taiji is going to promote itself as “the town that coexisted with whales and dolphins for centuries.”
According to the plan, 40,000 square metres of Moriura Bay in the northwest of Taiji will be netted off to keep minke whales, pilot whales, and dolphins. Tourists will be able to interact with the whales & dolphins in a natural environment, where they can swim with trained dolphins or paddle about in sea kayaks.
The project is intended not simply to promote tourism, but also for research on cetaceans. It is planned to provide accommodation and research facilities, utilizing part of “Greenpia Nanki”, the closed resort facility near Moriura bay, and “Whale Beach Park” where Taiji Whale Museum stands. The idea is to designate the vicinity of the park as a “Research Area” open to researchers from Japan and abroad, while trying to breed cetaceans in the bay.
Taiji town authority will negotiate with the pearl farmers in the bay on the transfer of fishing rights.
As the first step of the plan, Kyo-maru No. 1 (812 tons), a decommissioned research whaling vessel that worked in the Antarctica, was put on display in the Whale Beach Park this month (Feb 2012). Over the next fiscal year, Taiji town will spend 250 million yen on improving the park and its surroundings.
Since Taiji’s drive fishery was criticised in the Oscar-winning US film “The Cove”, foreign anti-whaling groups have been harassing the fishermen.
“We would like to turn the criticism into an opportunity to tell the town’s history, and make the whole town into a whale-themed natural park and museum” said mayor Kazutaka Sangen.