Most people know Sea Shepherd for their conservation goals, and hate towards whaling/their efforts against it, which include those depicted in show “Whale Wars” on Animal Planet. I admit that I was one of these people. But a couple of days ago, my admiration for Sea Shepherd grew immensely when I learned that Sea Shepherd cares about the plights of many other marine mammals as well! Specifically, I discovered something amazing about Sea Shepherd: they have been in Taiji, Japan, directly protesting the ongoing dolphin slaughter. These deplorable acts committed by the Taiji fisherman have been documented in the Academy Award winning movie “The Cove”
For those of you who don’t know, September 1st of every year marks the beginning of the dolphin hunting season in Taiji, Japan. It takes place until March, and during this time over 20,000 dolphins are brutally murdered by 26 Taiji fisherman. When a pod of dolphins is spotted, they are driven into the netted-off “killing cove” for slaughter. While the entire operation is senseless and cruel, the inhumane manner in which the dolphins are killed is arguably the most barbaric of all. The dolphins aren’t killed instantly, as the Japanese have claimed, but instead have been caught on footage thrashing around in their own blood, in agony, until they die. It is a saddening sight to see. Through spreading awareness and direct efforts on the part of the cove guardians, Ric O’Barry and his Save Japan Dolphins campaign, & Sea Shepherd have succeeded in reducing the number of dolphins killed.
At the end of March, we were supposed to see the end of the dolphin hunting season. The cove was to remain empty of dolphin blood for 5 complete months. In fact, the Fisherman’s Union announced an “early end to the dolphin killing season” due to the tsunami’s destruction. However, we underestimated the greediness of the Taiji fisherman and their displeasure towards our efforts against them.The hunt was resumed this month in order to recoup the losses from the Tsunami and increased awareness.
On May 4, 2011, the waters in the Cove ran red yet again, when 75 pilot whales were killed. Cove Guardian Leader and Sea Shepherd Director of Investigations Scott West, and Brian Barnes of Save Japan Dolphins were on the scene to witness it and fight for the justice of the dolphins. Mothers and families have been dragged from the center of the Cove to tarps, and forced to listen to each other scream in pain and desperation as they are killed. On May 5, the ones that were ‘spared’ spent the night enclosed within nets, terrified, with only the blood of their families to keep them company. The next morning (May 6), Marine mammal trainers from Dolphin Base and the Taiji Whale Museum picked their ‘prizes’ and sentenced them to a life in captivity. 10 other remaining pilot whales were killed. The rest were driven back to sea. While the released pilot whales were extremely lucky, the juveniles that are without mothers will have a reduced chance of survival. But one can only wonder why these whales did not share the same fate as the rest of their pod. Surely, the Taiji fisherman did not change their minds about the brutality of their treatment of the mammals. The manner in which they senselessly kill the dolphins demonstrates their lack of kindness and empathy. The answer that seems most logical (and most hopeful) is that this saving grace resulted from the support from people all over the world, who called embassies and governments and asked them to set the whales free.
Pilot Whales Killed:
May 4 – 50-80 pilot whales
May 5 – 20-25
May 6 – 10
There are only 26 fisherman causing this much devastation, yet they have been tenacious in continuous their vicious trade. Most of Japan is completely unaware that this is happening, and Japanese-translated The Cove movies have been distributed to the Japanese people in order to increase their awareness. But WHY is this still happening? There IS something that we can do. As Ric O’Barry says, “Right now, I’m focusing on that one little body of water where that slaughter is taking place. If we can’t stop that, if we can’t fix that–forget about the bigger issues. There’s no hope.” (The Cove)
Look at my Help Taiji Dolphins page for more information regarding ways you can help.