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November 16, 2012

Operation Infinite Patience: November 14, 2012

Supporting the captive dolphin industry = supporting the slaughter in Taiji

Risso's dolphin calfRisso's dolphin calf
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Over the past week in Taiji, we Cove Guardians have undergone yet another whirlwind of emotion as we bore witness to another two slaughters of dolphins within Taiji’s killing Cove. This time, both pods were Risso’s dolphins, who had the fatal bad luck of swimming past Taiji, Japan.

On Wednesday the 7th of November, we noticed the banger boats encircling a large pod as they began to drive them toward the town of Taiji. Early in the drive, a large part of the pod escaped the clutches of human greed and managed to swim back out to sea- free. During this event a few banger boats became focused on driving a smaller portion of the pod who had broken away from the others. For the eight dolphins who were being chased down by fast paced boats equipped with modern day navigational devices, their fate wouldn’t be so fortunate.

After a tireless fight for their lives, against the dolphin hunters who rely on the terror ensued from their engines and noises from their ‘banging poles’ to drive dolphins toward the cove, the pod became trapped and netted off within the killing Cove. Amongst the dolphins were two very young individuals, one was a newborn calf and still sported ‘birth rings’ along it’s body.

On the 13th of November, yet another Risso’s dolphin pod was taken into the Cove and slaughtered. In all, 20 dolphins met their fate on that blood-stained beach in Taiji. 18 were brutally killed. They spent every last breath fighting for freedom, and the thrashing noises from under the tarpaulins, set up before the slaughter by the dolphin killers, loudly echoed throughout the surrounding cliff faces.

Risso's dolphin trapped in netsRisso's dolphin trapped in nets
Photo: Sea Shepherd

On both occasions, just before the slaughter began, as the pods swam around in constant, terrified circles within the killing Cove; becoming trapped in nets and huddling close to their family members, we witnessed the underlying, pervasive reason for this slaughter- the dolphin trainers.

Two Risso’s dolphins were taken from both of the pods driven in on the 7th and 13th respectively- four total. All four dolphins were transferred into a single, minuscule sea pen in Taiji Harbor, by trainers who work at the Dolphin Resort Hotel, assisted by dolphin killers. This is the sole reason why the dolphin killers herded all of these dolphins into the killing Cove in the first place- not for those dolphins that they kept to slaughter for meat (which will only fetch them roughly under a thousand dollars per dolphin in a dwindling market), but for the tens of thousands of dollars that the Fisheries Union and other facilities ‘earn’ for capturing a single live dolphin. So, it is likely that the sale of just one of these captive Risso’s dolphins will far outstretch the money earned from all 23 dolphins killed over the two slaughter days put together. Herein lies the true motive for the slaughter of dolphins and small whales in Taiji, Japan.

One of the most disturbing, but unsurprising parts of the slaughter on the 7th, was that the dolphin killers deemed the smallest calf not profitable enough to kill for meat, so, it was dumped out to sea alone, to fend for itself without the protection of it’s pod or food from it’s mother. Although it is virtually impossible for us to know for certain, it is highly likely that this calf would not have survived. Due to the dolphin killers having a set quota to which they must adhere (especially now that we are constantly watching their every move), to them, slaughtering and keeping a calf for meat would be cutting possible meat profits by up to about 90%. A Risso’s dolphin calf is born at up to 50kgs (110 lbs), and can reach weights of up to 450-500kgs(1000+ lbs) during adulthood. There is nothing traditional about this practice; it is simply about profit and profit alone.

Dolphin killers attempting to hide dead bodies during a transferDolphin killers attempting to hide dead bodies during a transfer
Photo: Sea Shepherd

Over the course of the week here, we’ve experienced numerous days without dolphin slaughters, where we are all given a much needed relief from the environmental crimes that ensue from the dolphin hunts. However, our work is not over on these days. The captive facilities become a major focal point, and we monitor these areas in order to expose what goes on behind the closed doors of the captive trade.

Captive Dolphin at Dolphin Base, TaijiCaptive Dolphin at Dolphin Base, Taiji
Photo: Sea Shepherd

People need to know the truth when it comes to supporting captive dolphin facilities. The global community needs to be made aware that by supporting facilities that house captive dolphins, you are, in effect, supporting the slaughters here in Taiji. If there were no demand to see these animals put ‘behind bars’ and in concrete tanks all over the world, there would be no need to capture them. For as long as the captive industry holds dolphins within their walls, there is a desire for these companies to take animals from the wild, in order to replenish the genetic diversity and maintain ‘healthy’ breeding programs amongst the dolphins that they consider their property. As long as dolphins are being taken from the wild for captivity, there will be dolphin slaughters.

Until, of course, these drives are either stopped by the compassionate voices of people from all corners of the globe, or unthinkably, mankind wipes marine mammals out from our oceans for good. I know which option I would like to see materialize, and I have a strong belief after having returned for a third campaign here in Taiji and seeing the changes occurring in this town, that this will be the case, eventually. Perhaps the people of the town of Taiji who claim to love dolphins so fiercely, would also like to see it happen one day, before it is too late.

You can help us on the ground here in Taiji. To find out how to become a Cove Guardian, email your interest to coveguardian@seashepherd.org or simply support our movement to spread the word about the dolphin hunts by viewing and sharing our posts on and on the ground livestreaming.

Nicole McLachlan

Cove Guardian

Cove GuardiansCove Guardians Nicole, Ethan, Melissa, Beverly and Bianca
Photo: Sea Shepherd

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