Cove Guardians - Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

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

October 10, 2011

Operation Infinite Patience Week 4

Bloody October has Begun

Report by Cove Guardians Leader Rosie Kunneke

Fishermen capture a pod of false killer whalesFishermen capture a pod of false killer whales
photo: John Legg
This week we witnessed the start of what is called “bloody October” here in Taiji, where the small killing cove is the final cruel destination for thousands of dolphins and small whales. On Tuesday, October 4, we watched the banger boats in drive formation appear in our binoculars. Our hearts sank when we saw the size of the pod that was slowly being driven towards the shore. A part of the pod suddenly veered to the south approximately 500 meters from the harbor entrance. Some of the banger boats chased after this group of breakaways while the rest of the boats continued to drive the remainder of the pod into the Cove.

The dolphins were fighting really hard to escape the army of boats driving them towards the entrance of the Cove up until the very last minutes. From experience, I know that sometimes the part of the pod that did not manage to escape with the rest usually has babies or juveniles with them. The babies and juveniles cannot keep up and get tired quicker and therefore fall behind. The mothers will never leave their babies behind and end up in the Cove along with their babies. This suspicion was confirmed when we saw a baby dolphin jumping out of the water. The pod which consisted of suspected striped and bottlenose dolphins, was driven underneath the tarps onto the beach, within five minutes of initially being cordoned off in the Cove. We could see the dolphins were frantic with fear. One dolphin jumped onto the rocks and several dolphins swam head-on into the nets, trying to escape. Blood started to appear from underneath the tarps.

One dolphin was captured and immediately taken away by truck, while the killers killed the rest of the pod, between 25-30 dolphins, including the baby. The group that broke away from the pod was chased for another half-an-hour by the banger boats, but luckily managed to escape in the end.

The killers are going to extreme lengths to hide their shameful activities. At the butcher house, they built a tunnel-like structure covered with tarps in order to hide the transfer of the dead dolphins from the skiffs.

The hoA tarp-covered tunnel conceals the offloading to the butcher houseA tarp-covered tunnel conceals the offloading to the butcher houserror of this day did not end with the murder of this pod. After the slaughter, one of the Cove Guardians bravely agreed to assist me in following the trucks leaving the butcher house. One by one, we watched the white trucks pull out of the butcher house and disappear into the narrow streets of Taiji. The visuals of what we saw in the backs of those trucks will stay with me for the rest of my life. The trucks carried large containers filled with chunks of fresh dolphin meat. These containers were taken to a filthy backstreet building where we assume the meat would be processed.

We followed the last truck to a very narrow alley. The container on this truck was filled with the murdered dolphins’ offal. At each destination, we were met with aggressive resistance by the drivers who were desperately trying to stop us from taking photos. One driver literally backed his truck into a wall while trying to hide the contents of the containers from our cameras. It was truly saddening and heartbreaking to know that just three hours earlier these dolphins were swimming free in the vast ocean.

There were 15-20 police officers present during the slaughter, as well as coast guard officers in an inflatable boat at the killing cove. We were astonished by the aggressiveness of one policeman in particular who was on patrol around the butcher house. His actions made sense to us when we watched him enter the butcher house accompanied by a senior Fisherman’s Union official, and exit with a black bag, suspected to be full of fresh dolphin meat.

On Friday, October 7, the killers managed to drive a pod of what seemed like false killer whales into the harbor area. At this stage, a part of the pod managed to get passed the banger boats and was swimming towards to open ocean. The banger boats chased after the frantically, but gave up after about five minutes. We watched this breakaway pod swimming freely again with pure joy. Judging by the actions of the fishermen, we sensed that they were worried that the rest of the pod might also escape. The killers decided to encircle the remainder of the pod with nets just outside the harbor before taking a lunch break. During this time, we analyzed our footage and confirmed that they were false killer whales. The fishermen returned to the pod after their lunch break. For the remainder of the day, we witnessed as they captured the false killer whales one-by-one and took them to small holding pens in the harbor. The entire pod of 17 was eventually captured. It is so cruel to take these majestic animals from their home in the open ocean and enslave them to small pens, as many as 4 to 5 in one pen alone!

The dolphin pod entrapped by the fishermenThe dolphin pod entrapped by the fishermen

The killers went out and tried to drive dolphins on several other days this week but returned emptyhanded for one reason or another. Taiji annual Shinto festival took place on Saturday, October 8, and Sunday, October 9, which ensured the killers did not go hunting. On Sunday, we witnessed three groups of potential buyers, one that we identified from Dolphin Base resort, taken to the pens where the false killer whales are held captive. It seemed like each group of buyers had the chance to inspect and measure their preferred pick. Three false killer whales were moved to separate holding pens, where we assumed they would stay until they will be transported to whatever hellhole they will have endure for rest of their lives.

There is no visible change in the sick dolphin’s condition we’ve been monitoring, at the Dolphin Base resort. On the rare occasion that he does jump out of the water, you can clearly see how skinny he has become.

The visibly thin dolphin at Dolphin Base resortThe visibly thin dolphin at Dolphin Base resort
photo: John Legg

We urge people not to support the cruel captivity of these majestic sentient beings that belong in the open oceans serving their vital roles in the wild and not in concrete pens for human entertainment.

This week, Cove Guardians Jackie and John Legg and their daughter Sarah Legg, joined me from the United Kingdom. American Patricia Payne also arrived this week. Sadly, we said goodbye to Marley Daviduk and Carisa Webster who did a fantastic job as Cove Guardians.

October 4, 2011
Dolphins try to escape by swimming into the nets

Terrified dolphins in Taiji, Japan, try in vain to escape their captors
by swimming into the nets.  (0:53)


Be sure to visit Sea Shepherd’s official Facebook page to stay current on the Cove Guardians and follow @seashepherd on Twitter as we “#Tweet4Taiji” featuring the official breaking news updates as they happen.

Sea Shepherd is still looking for passionate individuals to join Rosie in Taiji to assist her in documenting the slaughter, standing ground to the local fishermen, and pressuring the authorities who allow this barbaric slaughter to take place. We managed to reduce the number of dolphins killed last season by half, and we can do it again this year but we cannot do it without your help as a Cove Guardians volunteer or supporter. To join us in Taiji (voluntarily, and completely at your own cost and risk), write us at 

A tarp covers the dead dolphins en route to the butcher houseA tarp covers the dead dolphins en route
to the butcher house
Baby dolphin that was eventually slaughteredBaby dolphin that was eventually
slaughtered - photo: John Legg
Chunks of freshly-butchered dolphinsChunks of freshly-butchered dolphins
photo: Marley Daviduk/Rosie Kunneke
Intestines/offal from the murdered dolphinsIntestines/offal from the
murdered dolphins
photo: Marley Daviduk/Rosie Kunneke

Cove Guardians Marley Daviduk and Carisa Webster from CanadaCove Guardians Marley Daviduk and Carisa Webster from Canada