Japanese fishermen, complaining that dolphins are eating their fish catch and profits, clubbed and stabbed to death some 1,000 of the seagoing mammals in a two-day slaughter ending yesterday. The killing was approved by the provincial government.
The dolphins, known for their ability to communicate with each other, ranged from 12 to 15 feet in length and some weighed more than 1,000 pounds.
Japanese journalists who witnessed the killing said the dolphins were lured to the surf on the beach by the fishermen and then bludgeoned and stabbed to death, in what has become an annual ritual.
The fishermen carried the carcasses back to sea and dumped them because the islanders eat dolphin meat and leaving the dead mammals on shore would also ruin the fishermen's sales.
"It's a pity to do this, but our livehood depends on it," one fisherman told Japanese reporters on the scene on Iki Island, a Nagasaki Province fishing center off the coast of southern Japan where the fishermen call dolphins "gangsters of the sea."
The fishermen earn their living catching and selling cuttlefish and a fish known as hamachi.
A fishing company in another part of Japan announced yesterday that it had caught 40 dolphins off central Japan, some 300 miles from Iki, and was shipping them to the Netherlands for $667 each to be trained as performers for aquariums and playgrounds in Europe.