Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

The albino Risso's dolphin captured this weekend in Taiji swims with its family for the last time in the cove. Photo: Sea ShepherdThe albino Risso's dolphin captured this weekend in Taiji swims with its family for the last time in the cove.
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Operation Infinite Patience
has been underway on the ground in Taiji, Japan since September 1st. Three months completed, with another three months to go for the 2014-2015 season. It is indeed frustrating for the Cove Guardians being on site for six months, year after year. But that is why the campaign is called Operation Infinite Patience.

No dolphin will be killed out of sight and out of mind. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians have documented every kill, every capture, and every inhumane act of brutality. It is a frustrating, soul-scarring ordeal. Yes, we have critics telling us that we should do more, but unfortunately there is not much more that can be done within the framework of non-violent opposition.

Some commonly asked questions about Operation Infinite Patience:

1. Why don't we scare the dolphins away like we have done in the Faroe Islands?

The answer to that is we cannot operate boats within 12 miles of the coast without those boats being seized by the Japanese Coast Guard.

2. Why don't we cut the nets and free the dolphins?

We did that in 2003, and saved the lives of 15 dolphins at the expense of two activists arrested and jailed for a month and released after $8,300 in fines. The warning given was that if this were attempted again, all Sea Shepherd members would be banned permanently from Taiji. This means that we could do it once but not again, and if that happens there will be no one to document the killing and captures.

Japan does not enjoy the freedoms that people in Europe have, and the Japanese police have extraordinary powers. The Cove Guardians are opposed by the police and the Coast Guard. They would dearly love for the activists to break the law, which would give them the reason to oust all Cove Guardians permanently.

3. What does the campaign accomplish?!

  1. It keeps the slaughter before the eyes of the international public with live streaming and media stories.
  2. It costs a great deal of money for the Japanese authorities to police the Cove for six straight months every year.
  3. It continually reminds the people of Taiji that the world is watching their every move.

If not for the Cove Guardians, Taiji would slip out of the concerns of the public internationally. The documentary The Cove was incredible, but without the Cove Guardians it would be long forgotten by now.

Sea Shepherd began the campaign in Taiji, Japan in 2003, when I sent Brooke MacDonald, with her camera, to Taiji. Her video and photos exposed the slaughter in headlines worldwide. That was the same year that Alex Cornelissen and Allison Lance were arrested for freeing 15 cetaceans from the cove. One of our crew that year was Ric O'Barry. He returned with Louis Psihoyos to make the Academy Award-winning film The Cove, of which Sea Shepherd was a participant.

The Cove succeeded in focusing international attention on Taiji. Unfortunately since the release of the film in 2009, the slaughter continues without any sign of an end in sight. It continues primarily because of the demand for captive dolphins by dolphinariums worldwide. As long as captive dolphins are exhibited for amusement in marine aquariums, the slaughter will continue.

Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project continues to oppose the killing in Taiji. They operate separately from Sea Shepherd but it is good to have a diversity of approaches.

Sea Shepherd is however the only group that has maintained a daily presence six months of the year since 2010, and although it is frustrating and heart-wrenching campaign, it is the only approach that falls within the boundaries of practicality, non-violence and the law. If Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians break the law in Japan, there will be no more documentation and the one action taken that violates the law will be the last action that we can take, because it will result in complete expulsion.

Some people say we should boycott Japan and Japanese products. I think this could be a good strategy and we encourage individuals to do just that, BUT Sea Shepherd does not have the resources to organize a global boycott and experience has taught us that national blanket boycotts are generally not effective.

In the face of obstacles, the incredible stubbornness of the Taiji dolphin slayers, and the despicable support of this slaughter by the Japanese government, the Cove Guardians continue to endure the experience of seeing and hearing the dolphins die. They continue to expose the slaughter to the world with the hope that the pitiful screams of the dying dolphins will reach the ears of people in Japan. The Japanese people — and people in the international community — must pressure those in power in Japan to address this issue that brings so much shame and dishonor to the entire nation of Japan.

It is amazing that a small handful of brutal fishermen are able to bloody the flag of Japan with their barbaric acts of brutality without being stopped by the Japanese people. But, then again, as a Canadian I have seen my own government ignore the majority opinion of Canadians with their ongoing policies of support for the horrific slaughter of baby seals on Canada’s eastern coast.

Sea Shepherd is opposed to the slaughter of the dolphins. We are not opposed to the people of Japan. However we do insist that the people of Japan have a responsibility to humanity to end this obscenity that stains the waters of the cove each and every year with the innocent blood of these highly intelligent, socially complex, self-aware and sentient beings.

What happens in the cove is murder, plain and simple. It is murder most heinous, torturous and shameful. It must be ended.

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