A Safe Day for Our Friends
By Ruth Williams
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute
Headed out to the Cove this morning; it was pretty chilly. Slight winds and dark skies. As soon as I arrived I saw the horrible sight of all twelve boats leaving Taiji Harbor to hunt dolphins. The sun quickly followed, but this time no red rising sun. Today there were dark clouds hovering in the distance.
Normally its pretty chilly on early mornings, but a storm was coming in right as the sun was rising. After about two hours the clouds thickened, and rain was spotted across the horizon. Shortly after that, the boats were spotted headed into harbor in no particular formation, which in simple terms meant Mother Nature was looking out for our dolphin friends.
Once again an amazing defeat.
The defeat was short-lived as I went into a local grocery store and noticed the freezer full of fresh striped dolphin meat. Never in my life have I felt so happy and had it ripped out right from under my feet. It was like someone punched me in my stomach. My morning hunger was gone after seeing fresh dolphin meat dripping blood in a tightly sealed package. I watched these dolphins swim their last moments together, and now they are nothing but a piece of meat in a cold refrigerator.
The police presence was overwhelming when they realized what I was focused on in the store. (The store is right across the street from the slaughterhouse and the Fishermen’s Union building.) It was so hard to be calm and collected knowing what I just saw. How could everyone be so secretive about something that is so obvious? If they are so proud of it, why are they so determined to try and hide it?
These questions will probably never be answered. I don't even know why I ask.
After seeing the dolphin meat my curiosity was struck to know what happen to the one striped dolphin that was taken from his family right before they were murdered. I heard the dolphin was taken straight to the Taiji Whale Museum. But I had no way to prove it and no hard facts. So I decided to go to the Taiji Whale Museum and see for myself so I wouldn't get any facts misconstrued.
At first it seemed like any other day at that horrible death museum. Those are the only words to describe it. It is full of artifacts of dead whales and dolphins.
I saw the usual dolphins and whales begging for food and doing ridiculous tricks for attention. Police approached me almost immediately before I even made it past the first set of dolphins. Which in some ways it ridiculous, because I am a normal customer just like everyone else. I don't see them stop and question any other persons.
But they are very kind, and I always fully cooperate with them even when I think it's ridiculous. They are only doing their jobs so I don't take it personal.
Soon enough I was left alone to go about my business. I sat and watched the Pantropical spotted dolphins that were formerly named "Sad and Lonely" – their new names are "Hope and Faith" because they now have a better tank. The tank also had a striped dolphin with them. All three are pretty energetic and are always looking for attention.
But today there was an extra set of fins! I couldn't believe my eyes. Right in front of me was the striped dolphin straight out of the killing Cove. Now having the police question me at the first dolphin tank made perfect sense.
The longer I watched this dolphin the clearer it was that this was truly a “blood dolphin.” The other dolphins were playful and strong. But he was absolutely terrified. I could clearly see his dorsal fin shaking uncontrollably. He had fresh wounds to his face all the way down to his tail. The other striped dolphin, which was a lot bigger and stronger, seemed to keep trying to roughhouse with him like he did with the others. But this terrified dolphin tried his best to keep distance between himself and the others as well as humans. It was the most heartbreaking thing to watch. Knowing I watched his last moments with his family! I've now seen his family members cut up in little pieces! And now all he can do is suffer at the hands of humans and all I can do is watch.
I watched as the trainers walked up to the tank with worried looks taking notes on a notepad. I could only wonder what they could possibly be feeling (if anything). Because I am an outsider looking in, and my heart was just breaking by the minute. I saw them bring out red buckets with a feeding tube, but they quickly took that out of sight once they noticed me watching them.
They also forgot to put away their transport equipment. Everything was still on the side of the entrance to the aquarium that I hadn't notice at first glance. I have no faith that this dolphin is going to survive this whole ordeal. A part of me wishes he was cut up in a freezer with the rest of his family instead of going through all this suffering. Just two days ago he was swimming free in the ocean with his family. And today his family is dead, and he's stuck in a bathtub with three strange dolphins.
Also don't forget their tank is connected to another dolphin tank that holds two bottlenose dolphins and two Pacific white-sided dolphins that do dolphin shows every hour for food. So the music, noise, and crowd must be over-whelming for a wild dolphin that has just gone through such traumatic events.
I am truly heartbroken for this dolphin. There is no justification for this. I wish I could help him. But once again I am left completely helpless.
Photo of Captive Dolphin by Ruth Williams.