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Are Dolphins People? - Dolphins As Registered Japanese Citizens of Toshima Island

Updated on May 6, 2012

Ancient History

In the Pacific Northwest, Indigenous foundation stories tell us that in the Beginning, some people chose to jump into the water rather than to remain on land and build communities. In order to save the water-destined from drowning, the Creator changed them into dolphins and whales. The whale is said to hold all knowledge of the universe and its history. Many things are said of the dolphin.

For many Indigenous cultures, the dolphin is a human and a relative of mankind.

Many Indigenous peoples speak of animal species as people species: the Raven People, the Turtle People, the Butterfly People and so on.

Today, such noble mammals as whales and dolphins, appear on carved cedar poles as power animals and the founders of Indigenous clans. They are said to be able to travel between the mundane and spiritual worlds, changing shape from human to whale or dolphin and back, as needed. The images of power (sea)animals on cedar poles often have a human face in place of the blow hole, showing this dual nature.

Reference Map

Toshima Island:
Toshima, Tokyo, Japan

get directions

Tokyo, Japan

get directions

Recent History

Considering human culture, we seem to have dolphins featured in many TV and film productions - Flipper, Winter (A Dolphin Tale, true story), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (with a talking dolphin), Boy On a Dolphin (1957, with Sophia Lauren), The Day of the Dolphin (1973), A Ring of Endless Light (2002). Humans are often fascinated with dolphins.

Dolphins also work -- In in real-life work situations, dolphins work as animal partners with the Navy Seals, detecting bombs. In addition, dolphins are used as therapy animals.

Looking at all this, are dolphins "only" (non-sentient) sea mammals or are they also people?

Documentaries have shown the slaughter of dolphins in the Japanese waters, but one particular group of islanders have ensured that this cannot happen in their waters.

These islanders live on Camellia Island or Toshima. Annually, between November and March, red Camellia flowers come into full bloom (see video below of dolphins and camellias).


Toshima Island:
Toshima, Tokyo, Japan

get directions


On Toshima Island, the movement against dolphin hunters in Japan has been ongoing since the 1980s. and other advocates have been successful in eliminating dolphin harvesting around some of the other islands south of Tokyo. These are the Izu Islands, of which Toshima is one.

On example of BlueVoice's work is that one former dolphin hunter was encouraged to open a dolphin and whale watching business. It has been very successful for the former hunter. Advocates have hope that additional hunters will open these types of businesses.

Toshima Dolphin Project targets the island of the same name. The first dolphin noticed around Toshima arrived in 1995 and was named Koko, having a baby in 1998 that was named Piko., residents and business people successfully joined efforts in registering Koko and Pico as citizens of Toshima Island, actually a part of Tokyo. The dolphins are now considered people.

In 2010, several other dolphins moved to Toshima Island waters and in 2012, the group totaled 16, all registered citizens of Toshima Island, Japan. The total population of the island (people and dolphins) is about 300 to 330 individuals.

Dolphin Stranding in Peeru, March 2012

Illescas National Park:
Zona Reservada Illescas, Peru

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San Jose, Peru:
San José, Peru

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BlueVoice Fears Effects of Consuming Stranded Sea Mammals

From March 25 through April 20, at least 3,000 dolphins were stranded along the coastline shown on the map above in Peru. Most show the effects of acoustic damage - seismic tests done underwater. Some showed signs of bacterial infection as well. This makes the largest mass die-off of wildlife in Peru every recorded.

Interestingly, many of the dead dolphins have been consumed by area residents and fishermen, many of whom are now testing positive for Type II Diabetes. A link between the consuming of dolphin meat and Type II Diabetes is under research at this time. But tentatively, there may be health reasons not to hunt and consume dolphin meat.

Protection Of Dolphins In Japan also collects donations from interested people that support the notion of ending the hunting deaths of 20,000 dolphins each year in Japanese waters. Registering the dolphins locally as citizens is a first step of protection, with the additional advantage that Toshima waters lie within Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park -- It is not popular with the public for hunters to hunt animals in a national park, nor to kill registered citizens there.

The BlueVoice organization is in the process of supplying a filming team to make a documentary about the dolphins and the fishermen, with a DVD planned for release throughout Japan for educational purposes. If dolphin meat is linked with Type II Diabetes in humans in the near future, this fact will be even more reason for ending the hunting. It would be a bad business mistake to continue to hunt meat that makes people sick.

In order to stop dolphin hunting for human consumption, the Toshima dolphins and any new dolphins born or who migrate into local waters will be registered as Japanese citizens. This will cause Dolphin hunting deaths to be viewed by the justice system as human homicides. This is radical action that may be effective in protecting the species.


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      DigbyAdams - That descriptions gives me chills! I just found that one of our US Congresswomen enjoys a recipe that uses dolphin meat - I could never eat one of these creatures.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you so much for covering this topic so completely. I've seen massive dolphin strandings along the East Coast of the United States. It is an eerie experience listing to the dolphins communicate with each other during these times.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation is doing a lot of good work in protecting sea life that has been wasted in slaughter, along with the Sea Shepherd. It is one thing to hunt for food, but to hunt for sport and to strip an ocean completely bare of life for quick profits is pretty wasteful.

      The future DVDs to be produced will be incredible.

    • Shannon Paigah profile image

      Shannon Paigah 

      8 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Thanks, that was very interesting. I will definitely check out

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love dophins. I saw the spinner dophins in Hawaii and it was amazing. Voted up and useful. Take care, Kelley

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      I have always been fascinated by dolphins. I currently live near the ocean and still feel a thrill when I see dolphin pods swimming along the shoreline.

      I didn't know any of the things you wrote about in this hub and think it's quite amazing that Toshima Islanders have actually made the dolphins that are around the island citizens so that they can enjoy the same legal protection against murder.

      Voted up across the board except for funny.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      8 years ago from Pune, India

      Patty Inglish, MS,

      Interesting information. In my views, every animal, at least mammals have a right of citizenship.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      RealHouseWife and hypnodude - I think that dolphins are another of "man's best friends" like the dog. Many seem to be drawn to humans as companions, they work in therapy...Dogs are consumed in Korea in special restaurants, but most cultures don't eats dogs; dogs are workers and companions - especially to the Native Americans. I think we are to interact with dolphins, not eat them.

      I don't know how a dolphin would vote, though :)

      tammyswallow - They certainly are fascinating!

    • tammyswallow profile image


      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Fascinating! I love Dolphins. I don't think they are human, but better. Excellent hub!

    • hypnodude profile image


      8 years ago from Italy

      Given that Dolphins are said to be as intelligent as human beings and whales even more this makes perfectly sense. The world should not be humans' playground as Native Americans say.

      Beautiful hub. :)

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Third times the charm?? Let's see!

      I loved this - I had no idea Japan allowed their Dolphins to become citizens! That's cool and what doesn't surprise me is that the Japanese would be so honorable.

      Karma....maybe it's what is messing with the people who ate the animals?? IDK? I also agree with Drbj - we should give them a vote too! Voted up and everything and shared!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      SidKemp - I remember hearing about Seaquest, although I never saw the show; ahead of its time in trying to instill respect for life.

      It was brilliant of the monks to ordain the ancient trees and I hope the action preserves them; the law can allow for some humorous tactics. It makes me laugh thankfully for preservation of historic things.

      Lorenzo27 and vespawoolf - Thanks for commenting. There will be more in future.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 

      8 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thank you for sharing with us about this important work. It is spiritually uplifting. On the lighter side, I want to add one TV show - SeaQuest DSV - which had a dolphin as a member of the crew - and he could speak, and offered spiritual insight.

      Also, in Thailand, ancient trees have been ordained as Buddhist monks to preserve them from being cut down.

      May we live in harmony with each other and our world.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      8 years ago from Peru, South America

      It's wonderful to know that radical measures are being taken in Japan to protect the dolphins, those amazing beings of the sea. Thank you for telling us about it, Patty Inglish!

    • Lorenzo27 profile image


      8 years ago from Pistoia, Italy

      I love this hub! Unbelievable situation! :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for the comments! More dolphins are swimming in around Toshima, so I really want to see what happens next.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      8 years ago from UK

      Oh, I love dolphins and I love this hub. I’m sharing, sharing, sharing it as so many of my friends will love it. Thanks for highlighting this!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      Thank you, thank you for writing this. These beautiful creatures are such amazing INDIVIDUALS and I really think they should be recognized - their capabilities and relationships rival that of humans, albeit in different ways. Votes and shares!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Harry Connick, Jr. felt that the dolphin he worked with was almost human. He was amazed.

    • incomeguru profile image

      Oyewole Folarin 

      8 years ago from Lagos

      Yes, dolphins are highly intelligent marine mammals. And they must be protected. Voted up!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I bet they were not asked if they wanted a share of human problems! This all should be interesting to watch.

      Lyn - That's an idea. Some things would change, to be sure.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      So did anyone ask Koko and Pico if they wanted to be citizens? Or if they wanted to be considered equal to people? They may actually regard it as a put-down.

      On the other hand if they are protected, it may be best even if they take a step back in status.

    • Lyn.Stewart profile image


      8 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Votes for the dolphin for the new posy as World Science and Environmental Minister.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      drbj - I see what you mean, considering the mud slinging from the extremes of both political parties in the days up to Election 2012. Also in the name-calling and obscenities I often see and hear in discussions of religion and faith. We don't hear dolphins cursing Christians or Muslims, do we?

      liftandsoar - I think registering the dolphins as citizens in those waters is only a smart protection move without demanding equal rights for animals, but one that will cause problems later - will the govt be charging them taxes? Providing them public assistance dollars? Humans denigrating and destroying their own species to uplift another is a form of mental illness in my professional opinion. Or demonization.

      Earth Angel - I agree - useless slaughter and extinction is pretty brainless as well as cruel and unnecessary.

      breakfastpop - Winter the dolphin for President! She's already helped our Wounded Warriors in the development of new types of prostheses that really work as well as the original limbs. Or perhaps she could become director of the National Science Foundation.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      8 years ago

      Frankly, if a dolphin were in the White House I would sleep better at night!

    • profile image

      Earth Angel 

      8 years ago

      GREAT Hub Patty! I LOVE the idea of registering dolphins as people if only to raise awareness of the value of ALL living things! The slaughter of dolphins, and all other living things must stop! Thank you for bringing this to light ~ I think it could be very effective! Blessings, Earth Angel!

    • liftandsoar profile image

      Frank P. Crane 

      8 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I support and encourage whatever should be done to keep dolphins and other animals from abuse and extinction. But this can be done without designating them human. Makes for a sentimental pitch, but let's stick with the obvious truth. There's a huge difference between human beings and every other form of living creature.

      Strange how we want to elevate animals to human status, while treating humans like animals.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Dolphins are magical creatures and more intelligent than a number of sentient humans I know. By all means make them citizens and registered voters as well. :)

      Thanks for this interesting information, Patty. Domo arigato.


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