Bottlenose pod swims frantically as violent captive selection continues. Photo: Sea ShepherdBottlenose pod swims frantically as violent captive selection continues. Photo: Sea ShepherdThe 2015-2016 Taiji dolphin drive hunt is over.  This season, the government of Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, authorized Taiji’s dolphin killers to capture or slaughter up to 1,873 dolphins.  In some of the lowest numbers observed in recent years, between 630 and 650 dolphins were ruthlessly driven into the cove and slaughtered. Another 117 were taken captive, destined to spend the rest of their lives in shallow tanks, cement pools, or cramped sea pens performing circus tricks for paying tourists.

Sea Shepherd's dedicated team of volunteer Cove Guardians was on the ground every single day of the hunt.  Livestreaming the capture, selection, and slaughter, the Cove Guardians continued to bring international attention to this outrageous crime against the oceans. Despite ridiculous claims by those involved, the Taiji dolphin drive hunt is not tradition; it is a profit-driven enterprise supported by the Japanese government and fueled by the lucrative worldwide trade in captive dolphins.

Although several Cove Guardian veterans were barred entry into Japan, Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians stood their ground, as they have since 2010, to make sure the world sees exactly what Taiji tries to hide. The dolphin killers continued to use tarps to try to hide the killing from our cameras, but tarps can’t hide the blood that turns the water from blue to red or the sounds of the frenzied dolphins as they face their executioners. Our livestream footage irrefutably dismissed any and all claims of a “humane slaughter.” During one slaughter, a pilot whale escaped from beneath the tarps after being pithed with a metal rod. For several minutes, the profusely bleeding and suffering animal attempted to swim away, eventually slipping under the surface of the water.

Each drive brought new horrific sights and each month was marked by even more merciless acts of violence on the part of the killers:

The annual hunt began on September 1, 2015. The first drive of the season ended with a pod of Risso’s dolphins netted into the cove on September 11.  During the ensuing slaughter, the Cove Guardians observed one dolphin trying to escape by launching out of the water and up onto the jagged rocks in the killing cove.  As some of the killers dragged the doomed dolphin back into the cove, others looked on and laughed at the plight of the terrified animal.

The pod and albino Rissos dolphin huddle close together. Photo: Sea ShepherdThe pod and albino Rissos dolphin huddle close together. Photo: Sea ShepherdFollowing the slaughter of another pod of Risso’s dolphins on October 19, 2015, the killers dumped several bodies at sea.  We believe they took this extreme measure to avoid exceeding their annual Risso’s dolphin-killing quota.  The next day, the Cove Guardians discovered the remains of a dead juvenile Risso’s dolphin washed-up on the beach.

November 19, 2015, began four days of anguish as approximately 69 -74 pilot whales were captured and held in the cove. By November 22, 46 members of this intergenerational family had been slaughtered, and several more succumbed from the sheer stress of the drive and ensuing selection ordeal.  One pilot whale was taken captive but died days later in a Taiji harbor sea pen.

December 2015 saw a pod of bottlenose dolphins captured and held in the cove for three days. Bottlenose is the dolphin species most prized by the captive industry. With the assistance of trainers, 30 animals were taken captive. Those dolphins not deemed to be “pretty” enough for captivity were slaughtered while the same trainers laughed and watched.

January always seems to be an especially bloody month in Taiji.  This year was no exception. The killers hunted on 22 days and slaughtered pods on 14 of those days.  Forty percent of the entire 2015-2016 killing quota was met in January 2016. Nine drives took place in February 2016, with 20 more bottlenose dolphins taken captive and forced into the tiny sea pens in Taiji harbor.

Taiji January Numbers

The 105 bottlenose dolphins, seven Risso’s dolphins, one pilot whale, and four Pacific white-sided dolphins taken into captivity during the 2015-16 Taiji dolphin hunt are now condemned to a dismal “life” as slaves to the captive industry. Forced to perform circus tricks in order to receive a reward of drug-laced frozen fish, many of these animals will die prematurely from stress, trauma or both.

The Taiji dolphin killers repeatedly claim that the dolphin drive hunt is their “tradition.”  They also blame the dolphins for decreasing fish stocks and say that the drive hunt is a form of “pest control.” At the same time, they proclaim the pods of dolphins and whales who migrate through the waters of Taiji to be their property.  In reality, the desire to hunt and capture dolphins has nothing to do with pest control or tradition. It has everything to do with greed. Captive dolphins are a multi-million-dollar worldwide industry that starts in Taiji, Japan.

The Taiji dolphin killers are profiting from a demand for captive dolphins. If you proudly display a photo kissing a captive dolphin, if you support marine parks and dolphinariums, you might as well stand alongside the killers in Taiji’s bloody cove. Your entrance fee to these places fuels the tanks for another hunt.

After five campaigns of Operation Infinite Patience, this season's Operation Henkaku sought to focus specific attention on the captive trade. Taiji is all about supply and demand. The hunting and slaughter of dolphins will not end for good until the demand for captive dolphins ends for good.

While the grueling 2015-16 Taiji dolphin drive hunt season has now ended, the pressure on those who hold dolphins captive must not! Let’s close down the killing cove for good by bankrupting the worldwide captive trade. Dolphins are not assets, commodities or property. They don’t belong on transport trucks or cargo planes, and they certainly don’t belong in tanks. We must all continue to be a voice for the dolphins. Sea Shepherd calls on everyone who followed Operation Henkaku to keep pressuring travel agents, hotels, cruise lines, marine parks, and dolphinariums to stop profiting from the misery of captivity. Thank you for your unwavering support of the Cove Guardians, Operation Henkaku, and dolphin freedom.

Tell everyone you know to “Just say NO to the dolphin show!”

Operation Henkaku
Visit our
Operation Henkaku
site for more information.
Pin It
Sea Shepherd
Operation Milagro III Campaign Launch Video
Operation Milagro III Campaign Launch Video
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is returning to Mexico’s Gulf of California for Operation Milagro III to save the near extinct vaquita marina porpoise and the endangered totoaba bass. The M/V Farley Mowat is back on active duty with the M/V Sam Simon joining the Milagro campaign for the first ti...
Sea Shepherd Investigates Whale Corpse in Sea of Cortez
Sea Shepherd Investigates Whale Corpse in Sea of Cortez
The Farley Mowat Sea Shepherd crew is called out to investigate a dead Brydes whale in the Gulf of California on November 5th, 2016 while patrolling the vaquita refuge. To help the Sea Shepherd crew to continue its work in the Sea of Cortez, including protecting the near-extinct vaquita marina porpo...
Entanglement in the South
Entanglement in the South
Operation Guardian Angel - In and around Bahia de Los Angeles, in the Gulf of California, countless marine species are entrapped in nets with little or no hope of rescue. Rosalia Tellez works for CONANP, a department of the Mexican government that acts as park rangers to enforce laws and assist in ...
Good and Bad Days
Good and Bad Days
This video follows Sea Shepherd volunteers over the course of two days. The first day Sea Shepherd locates and removes a long line from the sea; fortunately no animals were caught in the net. However, the next day volunteers find a sea lion that has been caught and died in a fisherman's net.
Operation Virus Hunter Campaign Summary
Operation Virus Hunter Campaign Summary
Sea Shepherd campaign Operation Virus Hunter saw the vessel RV Martin Sheen under the leadership of Alexandra Morton, head up the coast of British Columbia Canada to expose open pen Atlantic salmon farms and the impact they are having on wild Pacific salmon and the the surrounding eco-systems.
Illegal Totoaba Nets
Illegal Totoaba Nets
This video follows Sea Shepherd volunteers through the process of locating, retrieving and disposing of illegal nets in the Gulf of California.
Discovering Alleged Wild Salmon Dead in Fish Farms
Discovering Alleged Wild Salmon Dead in Fish Farms
August 12th 2016: Early Thursday morning the R/V Martin Sheen assisted Melissa Willie, a band councilor of the Musgamagw Dza’wada’enuxw nation, in hand delivering a letter to three farms expressing the nations disapproval of the industry. Sea Shepherd crew alongside independent biologist Alexand...
The Grind of the Faroe Islands
The Grind of the Faroe Islands
Ross McCall travels to the Faroe Islands to explore the truths behind the centuries old tradition of the brutal Pilot Whale drives.
Operation Virus Hunter: A Salmon PSA with Pamela Anderson
Operation Virus Hunter: A Salmon PSA with Pamela Anderson
Sea Shepherd Chairman of the Board, actor/activist Pamela Anderson, cautions viewers about the dangers of eating farmed salmon.
Why Just One?  Indiegogo Video
Why Just One? Indiegogo Video
Support Sea Shepherd's documentary by sharing and backing our Indiegogo campaign here: http://bit.ly/1OfvER6
Milagro Summary - English
Milagro Summary - English
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Operation Milagro II has come to an end. Milagro is its campaign to fight the looming extinction of the vaquita porpoise, the most endangered marine mammal in the world. With an estimate of less than 100 surviving vaquita, Sea Shepherd ships the R/V Martin Sheen...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 15 - Good Bye
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 15 - Good Bye
Watch the crew of the Farley Mowat capture footage of illegal fishing activity with a night vision drone and pull up a totoaba net in the dead of night. This is the final vlog of Operation Milagro II!
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project is dedicated to collect samples from whales in the Gulf of California to measure levels of toxins in whales in order to determine the levels of toxins in the Gulf of California itself. Learn more at: www.seashepherd.org
Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera
Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera
Never before seen footage. Sea Shepherd catches critically endangered totoaba poacher in the act. The Sea Shepherd crew filmed these totoaba poachers as they were checking one of their illegal nets in the protected vaquita habitat. The vaquita porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal in the wor...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 14 - Saving Lives
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 14 - Saving Lives
Watch‬ the routine of our crew doing valuable work in the ‪Sea of Cortez‬. We have been very effective at removing illegal fishing gear from the ‪‎vaquita‬ porpoise's habitat. So much so, that now, most of the time we remove nets and lines that are mostly empty, our favorite thing to do....
Sea Shepherd finds 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks
Sea Shepherd finds 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks
The Sea Shepherd crew has found 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks in the month of march of 2016. The vaquita porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Learn more at: www.seashepherd.org/milagro2
Sea Shepherds finds a dead sample of the most endangered marine mammal in the world
Sea Shepherds finds a dead sample of the most endangered marine mammal in the world
While patrolling the waters of the upper Gulf of California the Sea Shepherd crew found a dead vaquita porpoise. The vaquita is the most endangered marine mammal in the whole world. The crew also found a Great White Shark caught in an illegal gillnet.
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 12 - This is Direct Action
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 12 - This is Direct Action
This week, the crew of ‪Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ships The M/V Farley Mowat and The RV Martin Sheen find and retrieve an illegal totoaba bass long line from the critically endangered ‪vaquita porpoise habitat. The totoaba fish is also critically endangered. Watch all episodes at: http...
Sea Shepherd Crew Save Humpback Whale Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
Sea Shepherd Crew Save Humpback Whale Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
Sea Shepherd crew rescued a whale entangled in an illegal totoaba gillnet in the Gulf of California. Sea Shepherd currently has two vessels in Mexico's Gulf of California on OPERATION MILAGRO. Our goal is to save the vaquita porpoises, the most endangered marine mammal. The vaquita are caught as a r...
Gregg Lowe on Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro
Gregg Lowe on Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro
You might know Gregg Lowe from X-Men: Days of Future Past, but now watch him explain Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro and understand why we must save the #VaquitaMarina - The most endangered cetacean in the world. Help us save the vaquita at: http://seashepherd.org/milagro2/donate-now/vaquita-appeal...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 11 - Big Fish
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 11 - Big Fish
This week the crew of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ships The Farley Mowat and The Martin Sheen find and retrieve an illegal totoaba bass net from the critically endangered vaquita marina's habitat Watch all episodes at: http://www.seashepherd.org/milagro2/multimedia/videos.html ‪#‎OpMilag...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 10 - Light up the Dark
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 10 - Light up the Dark
Actor Gregg Lowe crews with Sea Shepherd to help us protect the vaquita. The M/V Farley Mowat lights up the vaquita refuge and deters poacher from laying deadly nets in the vaquita marina's habitat. Watch all episodes at: http://seashepherd.org/milagro2/multimedia
Sea Shepherd Wildlife - False Killer Whales
Sea Shepherd Wildlife - False Killer Whales
The first video of our new series "Sea Shepherd Wildlife". This episode is about one of the lesser know large dolphins - The False Killer Whales. Learn more about these beautiful creatures with the Sea Shepherd crew. Share it with your friends. Video by Carolina A. Castro Narration by Nicole D'Entr...
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat.
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 05 - Gillnet Damage
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 05 - Gillnet Damage
Join the crew of the R/V Martin Sheen as they witness the damage a gillnet can cause to marine wildlife while patrolling the endangered vaquita's refuge in Mexico.