Aussie town dumps Japan sister city over dolphins


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 24, 2009 at 5:31 AM EDT

An Australian town with deep historical ties to Japan has severed its sister city relationship with a Japanese village to protest an annual dolphin slaughter, civic leaders said Monday.

Councillors in the remote West Australian town of Broome voted unanimously to end sister city ties with Taiji at a meeting on Saturday because they felt the dolphin cull was unacceptable, said Broome's mayor, Graeme Campbell.

The decision was taken reluctantly, he said, as Broome's links to the southern Japanese village dated back to the late 1800s, when Japanese migrants pioneered the Australian town's pearl diving industry.

"It's a sad day for Broome, given the historical and cultural contribution made by many people from Japan to the town and the number of people living here who still have relatives in Taiji," he told AFP.

"It's very disheartening and sad for those people. It was a unanimous decision by council, none of us can condone the slaughter."

Animal welfare activists accuse Japan of slaughtering some 2,000 dolphins every year in waters near Taiji by driving them close to the shore then hacking them to death.

The cull is the subject of a recently released US documentary called "The Cove", in which filmmakers covertly recorded dolphins being killed near the village.

Campbell said the documentary had resulted in Broome being inundated with protests against the sister city relationship.

"We've had a tsunami of electronic and written protest to us, both nationally and internationally," he said.

"We had 5,000 emails in one day."

He said there were concerns the links to Taiji could lead to visitors avoiding Broome, some 2,200 kilometres (1,370 miles) northeast of the western hub of Perth, which is reliant on tourism.

"That was a consideration that was taken in when councillors were examining the issue," Campbell said.

He said Broome would be keen to resume the sister city relationship with Taiji if the dolphin slaughter was stopped.

"I have no doubt that they (Taiji) will be extremely saddened and disappointed by the decision," he said. "Whether or not it has any effect is up to themselves," he added.

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