Blog | The Silence is Deafening

The Silence is Deafening

January 10, 2012 by Ric O'Barry, Earth Island Institute

By Leah Lemieux
Cove Monitor
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

Much like last year here, January's calm seas, light winds and blues skies over Taiji continue to work in the dolphin hunters’ favor.

Again, the gang of banger boats returned to shore driving a pod of terrified dolphins, leaping for their lives, fleeing the terrible and deadly onslaught of the hunters' noisome boats.

We were pleased at least to see that though at first it seemed like the hunters were driving a very large dolphin pod of several hundred, by the time they reached the Taiji shoreline the numbers of dolphins had clearly fallen.  Many got away.

From our vantage point on Takababe hill, authorities confirmed our suspicion that these were striped dolphins being driven and informed us that that hunters had apparently allowed the greater part of the dolphin pod to escape because there simply was not enough demand for so much dolphin meat!  Just exactly why specifically this might be, we are not at present sure, but this is a matter we will look into further.  We suspect the efforts of Save Japan Dolphins and other organizations, along with The Cove documentary, to raise the issue of mercury poisoned dolphin meat is getting some traction in Japan, despite the official denials.

Leah's video of today's hunt:

Spirits fell as the pod of dolphins was driven past the point of no return and into the deadly killing Cove.  Often, the dolphins panic, but today this group of perhaps 40, circled in nervous and quiet formation, keeping close to one another for comfort and trying to understand what had happened to them, being so aggressively chased and trapped like this.

Then, with a final push, roaring boats converged, and this family of beautiful, peaceful dolphins was driven beneath the tarps and to their deaths.  But death was a long time in coming.  For nearly 25 minutes we stood in horrified silence, listening to the thrashing of the dolphins' flukes, each one of whom was secured to a post on shore with a rope tied about its tail, until a steel spike was hammered into its spine and the wound then plugged with a stopper to prevent the water from turning an incriminating shade of red.  We know from recent footage taken that it can take many minutes for the dolphins to die this way in what must be utter agony, and this was very much on our minds as we listening to the sounds of their suffering.

The silence of death when it finally fell was deafening, as slowly the seep of blood that can never be fully hidden began to stain the turquoise water of the Cove.

It’s hard to keep hope on days like this, but we know change is in the air here, although it can never come fast enough.

Today we said farewell to dedicated Save Japan Dolphins’ Cove Monitor Heather Hill who will be missed, and welcomed the return of Cove Monitor Tia Butt all the way from London.

Ric O’Barry has plans to broadcast again tomorrow, so tune in if you can (you can also see his earlier broadcasts):

As always our Save Japan Dolphin team works to promote education and cooperation on these issues, knowing positive change for the dolphins will come from within Japan.


Photography by Leah Lemieux

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The Silence is Deafening