Cove Guardians - Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Sea Shepherd's Dolphin Defense Campaign in Taiji, Japan Donate Now

January 19, 2011

Report from Taiji: January 19

A skiff with three captive dolphins heads out to seaA skiff with three captive dolphins heads out to seaSomething happened today that I can’t quite explain, and it’s not because I cannot find the words, it’s because we simply are unsure of what exactly happened.

All twelve banger boats left the harbor today to hunt for dolphins so the Cove Guardians headed to the Mountain Pass to await their return. We prefer this lookout to others as we can watch the harbor pens, stuffed full of captive dolphins, while we wait. As we sat perched over the town of Taiji, Dolphin Base trainers and a few fishermen came to the harbor pens in a skiff and proceeded to load three dolphins, one of them a small baby, from the pens into the bottom of the skiff. This was not so strange as they often transport dolphins from these harbor pens to the Whale Museum or Dolphin Base via skiff. However, this skiff went straight out to sea without looking back. They disappeared over the horizon line and when they returned, only moments later, the tarps were pulled back and there were no dolphins to be seen.

The question that remains is why were these three dolphins released after weeks in captivity, and were they actually released? We didn’t physically see these dolphins going back into the water but we definitely saw an empty skiff return. If they were sick, why didn’t they slaughter them like we’ve seen them do before? Every day these fishermen do something a little bit different and we don’t know if it is done intentionally to confuse us of if they just simply like to mix things up at work.

Nao and Nicole watch and document captive dolphins being loaded onto a skiff in the Taiji harborNao and Nicole watch and document captive dolphins being loaded onto a skiff
in the Taiji harbor
We sat baffled, trying to figure out why these dolphins had been released when all twelve banger boats came filing back into the harbor empty-handed. The Cove Guardians are perpetually exhausted and seeing those boats come back into the harbor and realizing that there would be no slaughter today nearly broke us. We were so thankful that weeping would have been acceptable at that moment, on a mountain surrounded by other Cove Guardians whom are all experiencing the same feelings. We are family and we are all bonded for life due to the horrors we’ve witnessed together.

Spread the word. Raise awareness. Speak out.

Dolphin Base: From the United States, dial 81-0735-59-3514 or send email to

Here is your opportunity to become a Cove Guardian.  To join us in Taiji (voluntarily, and completely at your own cost and risk), write to us at  We will get back to you, but please be patient.  We cannot keep an eye on the Cove and answer e-mails at the same time.  Contributions to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to keep our official presence here are needed and welcome.  These contributions cover the costs for transport, telephone, equipment, supplies, food, and lodging for the official Sea Shepherd representative.  We will remain here through the end of March and will return for the next season in September 2011.

Thank you to the citizens of Japan who are weighing these issues and beginning to take a stand to solve them.  Thank you to everyone who is on the frontlines of this war.  This is a war to save ourselves from ourselves.  Without your calling and writing Japanese embassies and your own governments, there will be no change.  Keep it up! Every time dolphins are pushed into the Cove, let them have it.  Every time there is blood in the water, let them have it.  Make good consumer choices.  Inform everyone you know about the tragedy here and how it is linked to the captive dolphin trade.  All who patronize a dolphin show have blood on their hands.

For the dolphins,

Libby Katsinis

Banger boats pass the harbor pens as they come back in after being unable to find dolphinsBanger boats pass the harbor pens as they come back in after being unable
to find dolphins
Trainers and fishermen gather at the harbor pensTrainers and fishermen gather at the
harbor pens

Nicole, who will be assisting me during the next three months, will share her experiences while in Taiji on her blog.