Cove Guardians - Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

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

October 2, 2013

Operation Infinite Patience: September 20 - 29, 2013

September 20th, 2013.

The dolphin killers wrangled and threw a beached Pilot whale into a sling before they dumped it out at sea.The dolphin killers wrangled and threw a beached Pilot whale into a sling before they dumped it out at sea.
Photo: Sea Shepherd
In the early hours of the morning, 11 killing boats departed Taiji harbor to search for dolphins. As the boats returned to the cove empty-handed, skiffs holding dolphin killers in dive suits were departing Taiji harbor.

Our Cove Guardians manning the harbour followed the skiffs to a nearby beach in northern Taiji. They discovered a lone juvenile Pilot Whale, most likely a victim of one of the previous whale drives. She had swam to the shore, possibly in search of slaughtered family members. The whale appeared very weak and close to death; however, she struggled immensely in an attempt to evade the killers. She was eventually captured and thrown into a sling.

The captors were startled to discover Cove Guardians overhanging the seawall, photographing the brutal act.

In the cove, the dolphin killers loaded a harpoon onto a boat and waited at sea for the skiffs to return with the Pilot Whale. Cove guardians were positioned along the coastline in order to gain a vantage point of the potential harpooning of the Pilot Whale; however, the killers dumped the Pilot Whale in camera’s view, close to the coastline and the vessel returned to Taiji harbor. Cove Guardians monitored the Pilot Whale as she slowly floated with the tide until she was no longer visible. It is unlikely that she survived.

September 21st – September 29th, 2013.

The following days saw the continuation of consecutive blue days, amounting to fourteen days of freedom for the dolphins.

During this period, dolphin killers left Taiji harbor on a number of mornings, but due to inclement weather conditions, such as high winds and choppy seas, they were unsuccessful in locating a pod of Dolphins.

The Cove Guardians scoured the Taiji coastline over the next few days in search of possible dead bodies of casualties from the recent drives. The police and Coast Guard discouraged these investigations and even attempted to halt the search, deeming the mission too dangerous, but the Cove Guardians continued.

The continuance of blue days in Taiji did not equal freedom for all cetaceans. Cove Guardians monitored the captive dolphins and small whales each day, and captured the current dilapidated and starved state of one of the captive False Killer Whales. By monitoring each session of feeding at Dolphin Base, Cove Guardians were able to document the clear lack of fish fed to the Dolphins, which in the wild may eat over 20 kgs (44 lbs) of fish each day.

The Cove Guardians witnessed two False Killer Whales constantly begging for food and unable to concentrate to perform the tricks the dolphin trainers were forcing them to do.

The captive dolphins are trained daily and withheld food for the purpose of human entertainment and exploitation – such as ‘Swim with a Dolphin Programs.’ Twice a day, four captive Bottlenose Dolphins imprisoned at Dolphin Base are forced to perform tricks and swim with groups of humans. These animals are starved in order to train them to work for the reward of dead fish.

Monitoring of the captive Dolphins is done throughout the day and at night. I wonder if the paying tourists think about what the dolphins do after the parks close.

As the trainers finish work for the day, the sun sets, leaving the dolphins with a long, quiet and lonely night, which will be their unfortunate fate for the rest of their lives.

The Cove Guardians also monitored the Taiji, Whale Museum’s leading performing dolphins. The sight before their eyes was a despairing one. One Bottlenose Dolphin repetitively bobbed his/her head out of the water, visibly vocalising to the visual of his/her shadow. The dolphin’s vocalisations were disheartening, as he/she appeared to be distressed and agitated. This sorrowful scene continued for more than 30 minutes.

Even though, September 26th was a blue, no-hunt day, Cove Guardians continued to monitor the daily activities of those involved in the slaughter of dolphins and small whales. The Cove Guardians were able to film a delivery of fresh dolphin blubber. Dolphin meat buyers immediately scrambled to close their doors to avoid the Cove Guardian’s cameras. The police also stated they did not want pictures taken of this activity.

The delivery was obviously fresh Dolphin meat and not frozen Pilot Whale meat from a previous drive hunt as the police claimed to the Cove Guardians. Like everything in the town of Taiji, the process was performed very discreetly in order to avoid the eyes of the world from watching.

We are in need of volunteers in November and December. To join us as a Cove Guardian in Taiji please email and request an application.

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Ashley Avci
Cove Guardian