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October 1, 2010

Report from Taiji: October 1

the cove October 1, 2010
The cove October 1, 2010

The dolphin hunters put out to sea early this morning, but they all returned empty handed by 9:00 am.  Great weather is predicted for the next couple of days.  We can expect high winds and thunderstorms.

We have confirmed that there are still live dolphins being held in the pens in Taiji Harbor.  We are unable to determine how many dolphins are there.  These are the same pens that Black Fish attacked and from where we observed dolphins being collected for shipment.

I had the opportunity to speak with a middle aged, educated, and intelligent Japanese man.  He is concerned about the changes in Japan that he has witnessed in his life.  He wants to ensure that Japanese traditions and culture are not lost in this ever-shrinking globe.  I can understand his concerns and respect them.  Personally, I believe that we all need to be thinking of ourselves as Earthlings, but there is much beauty that should be retained as we become aware that we are all citizens of this one small and fragile planet.  There is also horror that needs to be abandoned.  Just because something has been done for a long time, does not make it right.  There are some things that just do not have a place in the 21st century.

I was shocked though when I learned that he has decided to make his stand on Japanese food culture.  In particular, he wants to ensure that the acquisition, preparation, and consumption of whale and dolphin be preserved.  I would think that he would want to focus on the arts instead.  Japan is rich in art, music, and dance.  Its spiritual and religious traditions are worthy of protection.  If he wants to focus on food, then he should ask why there are now Japanese children who do not know how to use chopsticks, why rice consumption is declining, or why Japanese are now consuming so much packaged junk food.  Why have I seen several McDonald’s outlets, even in this remote part of Japan?

Seafood has always been a significant part of the Japanese diet.  Japanese fishing vessels ply all of the world’s oceans and Japanese fish brokers buy even more from other commercial fishing operations.  What this man and, it seems, many Japanese do not understand is that the oceans can no longer sustain them.  There are just too many humans utilizing advanced machinery to draw down a constantly decreasing population of marine animals.  The consumption of seafood and the assault on the oceans from modern pollution are killing the seas.  They will die and with them, we will die.

In addition, the Japanese government and scientists are working day and night to convince the population that the quality and supply of seafood is high.  The government officials must lay awake at night fearing that the citizens of Japan will come to realize that their main source of protein is neither safe nor plentiful.  The fact is that all of the predator fishes and marine mammals eaten all over the world contain action levels of mercury.  Ignoring this fact or denying it does not change it.

And even more alarming is that this educated man does not distinguish whales and dolphins in any manner from fish, cows, or chickens.  It is all food for him and the cetaceans are just big fish.  One can certainly pursue the point to argue for the sanctity of all animal life, but for our purpose here, we are focused on dolphins and whales (wild and sentient beings).  How are we, all of us, going to reach the consciousness of the Japanese people if someone like this man cannot see?  If he will close his eyes and ears to the facts and fight to continue his consumption of toxic and diminishing marine animals, what will get his attention?

I believe the answer lies in what it will cost him.  All Japanese are paying the price.  Japanese are being viewed the world over as barbaric and uncivilized because of the actions of a very small number of men in the tiny town of Taiji and because of the commercial whaling fleet.  What is this doing to sales of Japanese goods overseas or to the tourist industry by those who choose to visit less barbaric places?  Japanese taxpayers are paying the costs of subsidizing the commercial whaling fleet and even the costs associated with protecting the dolphin trade.  The taxpayers even have to pay for the extra police response to my presence in Taiji.  All of this cannot be cheap.  What of the health costs associated with elevated levels of mercury in those that consume this stuff?  The costs to Japan must be significant and will only increase as more Earthlings become aware of what is happening here.

It does not have to be this way.  The elected officials in Wakayama Prefecture could end the dolphin hunt tomorrow.  The elected national officials could do likewise.  They need to hear from citizens in Japan and the world over.  Speak loudly.

We need your help now more than ever.  Spread the word, send donations, join in the international day of protest, and if at all possible, come join us here in Taiji.  To join us (voluntarily, and completely at your own cost and risk) in Taiji, write to me at inform-us@seashepherd.org.  I will get back to you, but please be patient.  I cannot keep an eye on the Cove and answer email at the same time.

Click here to learn more about the international day of protest on October 14, 2010.

Follow my daughter’s blog of these events.

For the Oceans,

Scott West
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Tarah Millen will be joining us here in November.  She has started a blog about her endeavor.

Dolphin hunter returning to Taiji
dolphin hunter returning to Taiji

 

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