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January 18, 2013

Operation Infinite Patience: January 16, 2013

A brutal and bloody week of captivity and death in Taiji

After 14 peaceful days during the holiday season, the dolphin killers of Taiji have been making up for lost time.

On January 7th, a large pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins were found north of Taiji. As nine killing boats drove the pod closer to Taiji harbor, three boats returned to the Fisherman’s Union. Killers in dive suits quickly gathered nets and foam pads into skiffs to prepare for an at-sea capture. A high percentage of the pod managed to evade the killing boats with the exception of three dolphins. Skiffs and killing boats surrounded these dolphins until a net enclosure was in place- trapping the two juvenile and one female white-sided dolphin inside. The dolphins struggled until they were carelessly hoisted into the skiffs and tossed into the Taiji harbor pens.

On January 8th, as the dolphin killers drove a small pod of Risso’s dolphins toward the killing Cove, it appeared as if they received a call from a local fisherman on the location of another pod. They abandoned the pod of Risso’s, changed directions, and headed out to the horizon. A drive formation was soon spotted and ten killing boats drove the remaining pod of white-sided dolphins from the previous day. It was a long, tiresome, and forced journey for the pod. The drive extended over two hours until the killers managed to trap twelve dolphins within a net just outside of Taiji harbor, in the same fashion as they had the day before. The battle of netting the family was bloody and brutal. One dolphin was so badly injured it was taken directly to the Taiji butcher house. Eleven dolphins total were taken captive to the Taiji harbor pens during the eight-hour process.

Police and Coast Guard heavily monitored Cove Guardians as we documented the captive process. We were told not to walk along the rocky beach -not because it was illegal - but because our view would be unobstructed. As the Coast Guard followed us, we noticed a decomposing Bottlenose dolphin lying against the rocks. This dolphin was most likely a victim of the Bottlenose drive of December 13th.  Proof that even if the pod is driven back out to sea, the chances of survival are slim to none, after being held for so many days without food and from the stress of family separation.

A dead Bottlenose dolphin was found rotting on shore after it did not survive the drive back out to seaA dead Bottlenose dolphin was found rotting on shore after it did not survive the drive back out to sea
Photo: Sea Shepherd

On January 11th, we were starting to feel a sense of relief as the killing boats started to head back to port empty handed. But just as the first boat entered the harbor entrance, with the remainder of the fleet just behind them, all of the boats abruptly changed direction and headed back out to sea.  A pod of Risso’s dolphins was quickly driven into the Cove. Two juveniles were taken captive directly to Dolphin Resort Hotel as twenty of their family members were killed one-by-one. The slaughtering had begun under the tarps as the two captives were still in slings within the killing Cove. The blood seeped out from under the tarps as dead bodies were taken via skiffs to the butcher house.

Meat buyers swarmed the Fisherman’s Union during the meat auction, while simultaneously two Bottlenose dolphins were being transferred out of the Taiji harbor pens. A large crane lifted the dolphins into transport crates and then placed them into a large truck. The dolphins were transported several hours north of Taiji.

Dead Risso dolphins floating in the water as they were transferred out of the cove to a killing boat bound for the butcher houseDead Risso dolphins floating in the water as they were transferred
out of the cove to a killing boat bound for the butcher house
Photo: Sea Shepherd

On January 13th, an entire pod of 32 Striped dolphins were viciously slaughtered within the killing Cove. Killers draped extra nets and tarps to prepare for the dolphins jumping onto the rocks. Many dolphins were entangled in the nets as they frantically tried to escape their fate. Blood filled the Cove waters, as there was no hiding the massacre.

The meat buyers desperately tried to avoid our cameras as we were livestreaming the transfer of fresh Striped dolphin meat. One truck unsuccessfully hid from our cameras and rushed past us. As they turned the street corner, a large slab of dolphin flesh fell from the truck and landed near our feet. Moments later, another buyer picked up the piece of meat, laughing as he apparently found the entire incident hilarious.

Later that afternoon, only days after being ripped from their family and all that was natural to them, one of the white-sided dolphins died. After many attempts and failures to condition the dolphin to eat frozen fish, trainers and veterinarians had been medicating and tube feeding the dolphin until it died from the stress of captivity. Killers and trainers forced pod mates away from the dying dolphin as treatment was given. Shortly after the dolphin died it was wrapped in tarps and taken immediately to the Taiji butcher house.

On January 14th, the weather was in favor of the dolphins as heavy rain and strong winds kept all boats in port.

Risso dolphin pod minutes before it was driven into the killing coveRisso dolphin pod minutes before it was driven into the killing cove
Photo: Sea Shepherd

On January 15th, the killing boats left Taiji harbor at 6:50 am and were driving a pod by 7:30am. A family of 17 Rissos’ were swimming close to Taiji shore and by 8:00 am the entire pod was netted into the Cove. Once the dolphins were in the killing Cove, the pod began to thrash and fight their way back toward the outer nets. Killers excessively used their slap paddles and skiffs to intimidate and force the dolphins under the tarps that cover the shore. The pod desperately tried to escape as the killers took out their frustration by running over dolphins with skiffs. Within an hour the entire pod, including juveniles, were slaughtered and skiffs transferred the bodies out from under the tarps toward Taiji harbor.

Cove Guardians continue to have a strong presence here in Taiji. Exposure through social media and our livestream footage has brought worldwide attention to the atrocities that continue to happen in Taiji. Compassionate individuals are increasingly joining Operation Infinite Patience. If you are interested in becoming a Cove Guardian, please email

A simple way to help dolphins is by sharing our updates, footage and livestream link with those who simply don’t know or who still support captivity by visiting marine parks and dolphinariums.

All livestream footage is archived

Cove Guardian Leader
Melissa Sehgal

Cove Guardians Sara, Liam, Valentina, Luca, Melissa, Willem, Scott, and SamuelCove Guardians Sara, Liam, Valentina, Luca, Melissa, Willem, Scott, and Samuel
Photo: Sea Shepherd