Two Views of Today’s Dolphin Slaughter
By Ric O’Barry
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute
I am in Taiji with two of our veteran Cove Monitors, Leah Lemieux and Heather Hill. I’ve asked both of them to tell about today’s horrendous slaughter of around 40 striped dolphins in the Cove. Here are their reports:
By Heather Hill
When I woke up this morning it had been two weeks since the dolphin killers had last gone to work, and two weeks since I saw dolphins slaughtered in the Cove. The holiday break ended today though, and the fishermen did not hesitate to make up for the lost time. The banger boats had only been out for about half an hour before spotting dolphins. Two boats began herding this pod, while others continued to search for dolphins on the horizon. It seems the two boats lost interest in this pod, perhaps because of it's small size or perhaps their still avoiding Risso's dolphins, but regardless of the reason, these dolphins were not pursued. Our relief did not last though – it wasn't long before they located a much larger pod and began to drive it towards shore. According to the fishermen (conveyed to us by the police), it was a pod of approximately 200 striped dolphins. My heart stopped.
Driving a pod of this scale using only twelve boats must be next to impossible, so we were not surprised (although still somewhat relieved) when we saw nowhere near that many dolphins being pushed toward the harbor entrance. Many had escaped, and the pod was now about 40-45 individuals. This was one of the largest pods I have seen here in Taiji.
The boats slowly drove the dolphins towards the Cove, and divers lined the rocks, ready to intervene if and when the panic-prone dolphins entangled themselves in the nets or threw their bodies against the rocks in an attempt to flee. Because the pod was so large, the fishermen were unable to push them all into the killing Cove (out of the range of our eyes and cameras) at once, and for a while there were dolphins cordoned off in three different sections of the Cove. One lone dolphin swam between the outer nets while its family members were being slaughtered; watching, listening, and waiting. After those dolphins already under the tarps were either killed or otherwise restrained, the fishermen opened the inside nets so they could drive the remaining individuals to their death. The final lone dolphin was not cooperating with the skiffs and resisted swimming towards the now bloody beach. A diver approached the dolphin and when it tried to flee, he grabbed hold of it. The dolphin was clearly extremely stressed by this contact and made a mad dash towards its family, under the tarps and out of our sight, towing the diver the entire way. His hand was placed over the dolphin's blowhole, and I wondered if he was trying to keep it submerged and out of our sight.
There was little more to be seen, but we could hear the dolphins still thrashing on the beach. One dolphin managed to escape, and we could see its body lying on the bottom of the Cove. It was too injured to come up for a much needed breath of air, and while we watched from high above, this little dolphin died, either drowning or from the extensive injuries inflicted by the dolphin killers.
The loud 'thud' of dolphin bodies being tossed into the skiffs filled the air. As the first loaded skiff departed to deliver the bodies to the slaughterhouse, a fishermen noticed the dead dolphin in the water. A diver came to collect it, and more divers began searching for any other potentially escaped dolphins that they had missed.
Blood tainted the blue waters of the Cove.
Peace has ended here in Taiji, and it is my wish for 2012 that we get it back, once and for all.
January 5, 2012. A BLOODY BEGINNING FOR 2012 IN TAIJI
By Leah Lemieux
Save Japan Dolphin's Ric O'Barry has returned to Taiji. And after a nearly two week holiday hiatus, the Taiji dolphin hunters were back on the hunt.
The sea was distressingly calm as the sun rose, and, only too soon, the gang of banger boats appeared driving a large pod of what authorities reported were as many as 200 striped dolphins. As they were chased into shallower waters, this enormous community of migrating dolphins began to break into smaller and smaller groups, which allowed the greater number of them to escape back out to see, but the grim onslaught continued until around 40-45 dolphins were forced into the dreaded killing Cove. Their fate was sealed as the nets closed in around them.
Too soon, the dolphins were driven beneath the voluminous plastic tarps that now encase the killing cove and subjected to a cruel and painful death. Those that attempted to escape their fate were dragged back.
Every year the Taiji dolphin hunters set up more and more elaborate ploys to cover and hide their deeds from our eyes and cameras. It appears they believe if we cannot see what is happening, the world will forget and the problem of international criticism will cease. But awareness of the shameful Taiji dolphin slaughter continues to grow, internationally and within Japan as well. And we will NOT GO AWAY! Save Japan Dolphin remains committed to seeing this atrocity end, as it one day must.
Photo of divers with dolphin by Heather Hill. Video and photographs of dolphins in the Cove by Leah Lemieux.