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September 14, 2010

Taiji Monitoring Update

by Scott West

It rained in Taiji early this morning.  The first rain, the locals tell us, to have occurred in many days.  It ended though about the time we arrived at the Cove around 6:10 am.  We found that the fishermen were already quite busy moving and separating the dolphins into different groups.  We suspect they were trying to get to a location where they could select the ones they wanted for the aquarium trade.

All day long, in the relentless sun and heat, they would move groups of dolphins around, driving them with sound from the outboard motors.  Also, the transport boats kept a steady pace taking selected dolphins in slings attached to the sides of the boats for the journey over the nets and around to holding pens in the harbor at Taiji Town.

Finally, all of the nets were removed.  The now free dolphins were not quick to leave the area.  A local told us that they would hang around the area once freed and “be a problem for other fishermen.”  This probably means they would eat fish after being without food for more than 24 hours.  It also likely indicates that the group is unwilling to abandon its companions who were taken from them.  So, out came the herding boats, banging on their underwater pipes, so we were told, to drive the dolphins out to sea.

We counted approximately 55 dolphins returned to the sea including two babies.  We do not know how many were taken captive.  A fisherman told us yesterday he thought they had driven about 80 dolphins into the cove.  While the captive dolphin trade remains an ugly thing, watching the non-aquarium bound dolphins swim away free was far better than seeing the water turn red from their sadistic slaughter.

The only reason they were not slaughtered is because we are here and the world is watching.  The dolphin season lasts through March.  We expect the slaughter to renew by October unless we can keep the presence and the cameras focused on this cove.  A reporter today asked me what would happen to the fishermen’s way of making a living if they were to stop killing dolphins.  I told him that the United States used to be a whaling nation, as was Australia, and now both are not.  There is a future after whaling.

The scene today at the Cove was something Hollywood could not have produced.  I cannot tell you how many police officers, Coast Guardsmen, fire fighters, and other officials were there, and in large numbers.  They were concerned that I might “do something.”  Eventually, a contingent of protestors against Sea Shepherd showed up and then the police became very concerned.  As promised, about a dozen Japanese right-wingers joined in the festivities with their truck-mounted loudspeakers.  The police told me that we were in danger and asked me to leave, but I said no.  I explained that the three of us: Matt Smith, my daughter Elora, and I were being calm and nonviolent.  I pointed out that the protestors were the potentially violent ones and that they (the police) should have them go away.  The police were obviously frustrated by my response.

Yesterday, I went into the main police station in Shingo City to notify the police that Sea Shepherd had received death threats via email from within Japan.  Since that time, we have had police following us as we go about our business.  They were quite unhappy today when I explained that I had a 90-day visa, intended to spend my time in Japan in Taiji, and that I would come to the Cove day and night to observe.

Just a short while ago, I left the hotel on an errand and noticed camera flashes from inside a car on the street.  I was being photographed and so I took their picture.  I do not believe these are police officers, but others who are highly displeased with our presence.  We will not be bullied or frightened away.  If you would like to join us (voluntarily, and completely at your own cost and risk) in Taiji, write to me at

For the Oceans,
Scott West
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Follow my daughter’s blog of these events at

Taiji monitoring update


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