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May 11, 2011

Return to Otsuchi: May 11

Porpoise boatsPorpoise boatsRecovery is underway in Otsuchi.  It has been two months since the earthquake and tsunami destroyed most of the town.  I was in Otsuchi yesterday and saw that many streets had been cleared and there was much work going on to collect and stage the various pieces of debris.

I understand that many have been confirmed dead and that there are still many more missing.  Life is difficult for those in the shelters and some wonder if they will remain here.  Signs of death and destruction are everywhere and on a large scale.  Gone is the gooey mud we encountered the day after, but with the warmer weather now, the odor is just as thick as the mud had been.

Let us not forget why we were in Otsuchi in March.  We were here to expose the wanton slaughter of Dall’s porpoises.  The slaughter happened pretty much year round.  The boats would periodically move to various ports in northern Japan to conduct their evil business.  Otsuchi was one such port that harbored these evil men and their boats.

The town of Otsuchi and its citizens, then and now, should not be all painted with the taint of evil brought by these few men.  Most of the townspeople were likely ignorant of such happenings in their midst.  There were, of course, those who knew though and allowed this to happen in their town.  The city authorities knew.

HarpoonsHarpoonsIn March, we had identified 13 porpoise hunting boats operating from Otsuchi harbor.   On March 11, 2011, when the earthquake struck, 12 of those boats were in the harbor.  We saw a couple scurry out to sea to avoid the tsunami.  Yesterday, I found four of those boats intact and tied up in the harbor.  I doubt there were any at sea, for the conditions were bad.  I did find one destroyed up on land.  Perhaps one or more moved to another port, but likely not, so it would appear that nine were destroyed in the tsunami.  In all, I found eight fishing boats of any size tied up in Otsuchi.  So half of the boats surviving are equipped to chase down and harpoon porpoises.

Let us hope that with all the mindless death and destruction surrounding them, the people of Otsuchi will call for life as they recover from this disaster.  Let us hope that the people of Ft. Bragg, California (Otsuchi’s sister city) will call for the new reality in Otsuchi - to be free from the horrible death brought to the porpoises.

Butcher houseButcher house

Some will argue that the people need to eat and a porpoise is as good as anything else.  This is a false and empty argument.  Yes, the people need to eat, but they do not need to kill the free, sentient, and intelligent life of the oceans.  Besides, because of human activity, these creatures are heavily contaminated with mercury, PCBs, and other industrial nastiness.  Now there is the additional concern about radiation.  Is anything taken from the waters around Japan safe to consume?

I did not find evidence that porpoises have been killed recently in and around Otsuchi.  There is hope.

Down in Taiji, where they just keep killing and killing, a storm is nearby which is keeping the killers off the water.  The storm will pass though and they will of course return to their shameful ways.  There is a volunteer or two who may show up in Taiji over the next few weeks or months.  But in any case, it is important for the Japanese embassies and consulates around the world to be reminded that even while Japan receives the good will of many as it recovers from earthquake, tsunami, and radiation, there are limits.  Causing death and misery to dolphins, porpoises, and whales to the death and destruction all around them is not acceptable.  This is the time for the Japanese government to become better stewards for the planet and be open and honest with their citizens.

Otsuchi two months after the tsunami

Video credit: Sea Shepherd (1:51)