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Operation Infinite Patience: Frontline Reflections of the 2013-2014 Cove Guardians

Sea Shepherd first exposed the brutality of the slaughter of dolphins and small whales in Taiji, Japan, revealing undercover footage and images to the world in 2003. In 2010, our founder, Captain Paul Watson asked, “What would happen if we never left?” Since he posed this question, Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians have been on the ground in Taiji each day throughout the six-month annual hunt season, bearing witness and documenting the horrific massacre of cetaceans.

International volunteers have dedicated their time, money and souls to become part of the Sea Shepherd movement that is now known as the Cove Guardians. They come from around the globe to document the murder of dolphins and small whales during Sea Shepherd’s annual Operation Infinite Patience campaign.

When the many captures occur, these majestic animals are only doing what nature intended – swimming freely in the oceans and sustaining ocean ecosystems. However, they had the unfortunate fate of swimming close to the killing Cove of Taiji, Japan. Entire pods of migrating dolphins are ambushed by a fleet of “banger boats” which are named as such because the fisherman manning these boats create a disorienting wall of sound by banging poles on the sides of their vessels. Eventually the pod is forced into the infamous Cove, a place of brutality and death. These pods are torn apart as some dolphins or whales are violently separated for captivity and others are murdered before the eyes of their family members. When this seizure takes place, Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are on the frontlines, armed with their only “weapons” – cameras and video equipment – to photograph the horrific imprisonment or inhumane slaughter of these intelligent mammals.

In January 2014, the capture of 250+ Bottlenose dolphins, including a rare albino calf, sparked a media firestorm around the world; never before had this many dolphins been taken in a single capture for slaughter or captivity. The real-time reporting and live streamed pictures from our Cove Guardians on site made international headlines for days, horrifying people around the globe. Even U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy tweeted that she was “Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing.” The photographs and video footage exposing the greed of the Taiji Fishermen’s Union and the international captive industry is still creating shockwaves and garnering ongoing media attention. Indeed, not since “The Cove” won the Academy Award in 2010 has there been so much attention brought to this issue. Due to the efforts of the Cove Guardians to expose this holocaust to a worldwide audience, the slaughter is no longer Taiji’s dirty, little secret.

In order to chronicle this remarkable season, we have asked our 2013-2014 volunteers to recount a memorable experience during their time in Taiji. While it is difficult for the Cove Guardians to recall their time in a place full of bloodshed, they have shared their photos and reflections of events from the Cove. Through these stories from the frontlines, the world can witness the cruelty that happens from September – March annually in Taiji.

Without a doubt, the Cove Guardians are making a difference in Taiji and creating waves of change around the globe. The world is now aware of the genocide of these magnificent dolphins and small whales. Sea Shepherd will continue to return to the shores of Taiji until this brutality is stopped completely. We will continue to practice Infinite Patience, and we will not stop until the slaughter ends.

To volunteer for the 2014-2015 Operation Infinite Patience campaign, please send an email to coveguardian@seashepherd.org and ask for an application package. To donate to the Cove Guardian campaign, please click here. Even though the volunteers cover their own expenses, Sea Shepherd still incurs considerable expense for this campaign. We pay for equipment, car rentals, and live streaming among other campaign needs. Your generous support helps us continue to be the only organization standing watch in Taiji throughout the entire hunt season.