Cove Guardian Campaign Leader Melissa Sehgal Denied Entry to Japan
Denial Occurs While Taiji’s Killers Rounded up and Slaughtered Pod of 50-60 Striped Dolphins, the First Striped Pod Killed This Season
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Senior Cove Guardian Leader Melissa Sehgal has been denied entry to Japan to document the brutal annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji’s infamous cove. While Taiji’s killers were rounding up a pod of approximately 50-60 striped dolphins yesterday, Sehgal was being escorted by airport police to the boarding gate at Tokyo’s Narita Airport after being interrogated and detained and finally forced to leave the country. Sehgal, who has never broken a Japanese law, was denied entry simply for being affiliated with the marine conservation nonprofit, Sea Shepherd. Sehgal has been on the ground in Taiji for four seasons and for six months at a time, the longest duration of any other activist documenting the atrocities in Taiji.
Sehgal landed in Tokyo late Saturday and was immediately pulled out of line for questioning. After being interrogated for nearly nine hours and detained for 24 hours, much of that in a holding cell, Sehgal was escorted onto her flight by police and forced to leave the country. While Sehgal was in the holding cell (for which $500 USD for “security” was attempted to be extorted from her), Japanese Immigration confiscated all her belongings including her phone, computer and bag (everything, but her coat) and held them until the following morning at 8 am Japan time. Trying to enter the country on a tourist visa, she was told by Immigration that although she had not broken any laws, she is still not considered a tourist. Sehgal landed back in the USA this morning.
“Since when is taking pictures of what Japan contends is their ‘culture’ not considered a tourist activity?” said Sehgal. “Japan is so ashamed of their serial killing and kidnapping of wild dolphins that they are trying to stop activists like me from showing the world the truth. It is a testament to our effectiveness that they are trying to keep us out.”
Sehgal’s entry denial follows a pattern of denials the Cove Guardians have experienced recently. Scott West, Sea Shepherd Director of Intelligence and Investigations, was also denied entry late last season, and several high profile veteran Cove Guardians have been denied entry this season. Other veterans have made it through and the campaign has continued undaunted.
Sehgal, who said she was proud to have been escorted by airport police and Immigration through Narita Airport while wearing her Sea Shepherd attire, stated: “I am very happy with the well-trained team we have on the ground right now in Taiji. If Japan thinks that denying my entry into the country is going to have any negative impact whatsoever on our campaign, all I have to say is they should know Sea Shepherd by now. We are unstoppable.”
As the horrors continue in Taiji, it is clear why Japan is so intent on trying to keep Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians from showing the world what happens on their deadly shores. On Monday, December 8 (Japan time), a pod of approximately 50-60 striped dolphins was driven to the cove and netted in. Striped dolphins are known to put up a brave fight for their lives against the killers, so tarps were quickly raised so that the wild dolphins could not throw themselves onto the rocks in an attempt to escape.
Given the considerable number of the striped dolphins and the fact that the pod included juveniles, the Cove Guardians initially believed that some of the dolphins might be driven back out to sea following the slaughter of the rest of their family. Juveniles and infants are often released at sea by the killers following a hunt – not out of kindness, but so that these small dolphins who will not produce much meat do not count toward the season’s quota. However, after the killers drove one portion of the pod to the back of the cove for slaughter, they returned to force the remaining dolphins – now swimming frantically and spy-hopping in the cove after witnessing the brutal killing of their family – to the shore to meet the same terrible fate. Every single last striped dolphin, already becoming scarce elsewhere in Japan’s waters, was killed.
This family was the first striped dolphin pod to be captured and killed during the 2014-2015 season, as the killers have found mostly Risso’s dolphins since the hunt season began on September 1 of this year. This was the 20th pod of dolphins captured and killed in the cove this season. There have been 17 Risso’s pods, one pilot whale pod, one bottlenose pod and one striped pod that have met their demise in the cove since the start of the season on Sept 1 of this year. From those pods, a handful of individuals have been taken into captivity. These lucrative few, once sold to aquariums, are what fuel the continued capture and slaughter.
"This is truly a sad day for me,” said Sehgal, “but I shed tears for the hundreds of lives lost each and every year in Taiji. My voice will never be silent. The exposure of my denial into Japan means a victory for the dolphins. Sea Shepherd continues to apply pressure and shine an international spotlight on the daily atrocities in Taiji.”
For six months of each year – from September until March – entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales at a time are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are hit against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted into the cove, the dolphins and whales face brutal slaughter or a lifetime in captivity. In a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove, remaining pod members — usually juveniles and infants — are driven back out to sea with little hope of survival on their own.
Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season, documenting and live streaming every capture and every slaughter for the world to see. The 2014-2015 season marks the fifth year of Operation Infinite Patience, and the Cove Guardians will not stop shining a spotlight on this atrocity until the slaughter ends.
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