Cove Guardians - Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

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

January 23, 2011

Report from Taiji: January 23

A single Risso's dolphin swims in the harbor near the captive pensA single Risso's dolphin swims in the harbor near
the captive pens
Heartbreak and Taiji usually go hand-in-hand and today there was no shortage of heartbreak. The Cove Guardians sat for hours on the Mountain Pass waiting for the banger boats to be visible on the horizon. When they finally rounded Point Rocks and were within sighting distance, they had a small pod of Risso’s dolphins, perhaps 15 or so.

The entire pod was driven straight into the killing cove and slaughtered while the townspeople watched from the beach. There was even a family with small children present for the day’s festivities. I had word via the radio that five banger boats encountered about three dolphins that had split off and they were attempting to drive them into the cove as well. Greed is a disgusting quality and the dolphin hunters showed their greed on this day.

During our commute from the Cove to the harbor, the dolphins eluded the banger boats and the dolphin killers gave up searching for them. However, apparently the pod had split again and we spotted one lone dolphin inside the mouth of the harbor, swimming circles in front of the pens that hold the captives. It was clear that these dolphins were communicating with each other as the captives were leaping and splashing more than usual.

Dolphin fishermen signal to stop as they spot the lone Risso's dolphin in the Taiji harborDolphin fishermen signal to stop as they spot the lone Risso's dolphin in the Taiji harborWatching this rogue Risso’s dolphin swim outside the pens, inside the harbor, was a harrowing account of the strong social aspect of these creatures. Although they were different species, these dolphins were communicating during their time of fear, panic, loneliness, depression, and severe emotional trauma.  The lone Risso’s dolphin refused to leave the captives and once it was spotted by the dolphin fishermen, we decided to take shifts to ensure that this dolphin would not be slaughtered in secrecy. The Cove Guardians stood at the harbor, with the dolphin a mere 30-yards from us, and showed the fishermen that we would stand vigilant for as long as it took.

At first, the dolphin killers acted as if they would ignore this dolphin, hoping, I’m sure, that we would grow tired, cold, and hungry leaving them to do what they would normally do with this terrified being. But we stood strong and they realized that if something were going to be done, it would need to happen in front of the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians.

Finally, they came out and netted the dolphin. It was put into a sling and driven out to sea and released. One creature was released; 15 were murdered. Today was a bittersweet day in Taiji town.

Spread the word. Raise awareness. Speak out.

Dolphin hunters net the Risso's dolphinDolphin hunters net the Risso's dolphinHere 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

A family watches dolphins being driven into the CoveA family watches dolphins being driven into the Cove (photo: Nao Iida) A pod of Risso's awaits death in the killing coveA pod of Risso's awaits death in the killing cove (photo: Nao Iida)

Nicole, who will be assisting me during my time in Taiji, will share her experiences on her blog.