|Saturday, October 11, 2003|
Dolphin Kill Stalled After Attack on Sea Shepherd Crew in Taiji, JapanDespite demands by the authorities to leave, a crew from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will remain in Japan to stop the dolphin hunt. Reinforcing team members arrived in support on October 9th. More crew can be expected to turn up in Taiji and other coast towns involved in the slaughter over the coming weeks and months.
The police have made daily trips to Taiji to question the crew since a hunt intervention on October 6th resulted in an attack. The assault occurred while the crew was filming and photographing a hunt that took the lives of approximately 60 striped dolphins. Local fishermen surrounded two of the crewmembers on a cliff and struggled to drive cameramen Morgan Whorwood, of Britain, off the precipice and onto the rocks below. The fishermen also attempted to seize the camera and film from Canadian photographer, Brooke McDonald.
Field campaign leader, Nicholas Hensey, of the United States, received their distress call by radio and contacted the police. The local authorities did not respond to the call and the crew remained trapped for over 30 minutes until officers from a neighbouring town could make their way to the scene.
The police transported all three crewmembers to the central station in Shingu, 40 minutes east of Taiji, where they were isolated and interrogated for nine hours. Whorwood was told an assault charge was being filed against him by one of the fisherman, but was not permitted to contact his Consulate. All three were photographed and fingerprinted despite no wrongdoing. Two police officers and a translator oversaw on a telephone call McDonald insisted she be allowed to make home. The officers dictated the content of the conversation and insisted she advise Sea Shepherd their apprehension should not be made into a "big deal".
Shingu police omitted key information about the attack when statements were taken from the crew by police, specifically in regards to a threat on Brooke McDonald's life. One of the fishermen spoke directly to McDonald in the presence of the police and warned, "B****, I kill you... don't come back". Both Hensey and McDonald asked to have a warning issued by the fishermen included in the investigative report. All requests for copies of their statements and the police report have been refused.
No charges have been brought against the fishermen despite the attack and subsequent threat. Investigations of crimes and the complaint procedures within the police department are performed at the discretion of the officers themselves. The Chief of the Detective Section of the Shingu Police Department has closed the investigation. The public prosecutor will review the report and an opinion document from the officers and decided whether to bring an indictment against Whorwood. In an interview yesterday, the police were clear that the matter would likely be dropped if Whorwood agrees to leave the country.
In spite of the hostility and tension directed towards them, the Sea Shepherd crew has made itself a strong and visible force in Taiji. Their round-the-clock presence in the fishermen's harbour is being closely monitored and the dolphin fleet has not gone out again since the confrontation.
The fishermen work in concert with a small armada of boats and sounding rods below the water's surface to interfere with the dolphin's sonar and navigational abilities. Once they have located a pod, they isolate and herd the communities into net pens. There the families are held overnight while their stress hormones return to normal. Smaller skiffs drive the pods onto the beach the following morning where the fisherman slaughter and bleed them into the bay, staining the water red.
Whale and dolphin hunting have a long tradition in Taiji dating back over 8 centuries. The meat is a delicacy and gets top dollar at the markets.
Taiji's tourism and recreation is built on the abundance of marine life accessible off the coast. This small town of two thousand boast an Aquarium, Whale Museum, dolphin shows and an opportunity to swim with them in very confined pens. Despite the boost from tourism dollars and their apparent reverence for the whales and dolphins that is evident in their art of every street corner and signpost, Japan is the only nation that is still killing dolphins.
Yesterday the Coast Guard contacted the crew of four to ask when they might consider leaving. It's a point of some interest and speculation amongst the townspeople and the authorities. The answer to that question is worth repeating. Sea Shepherd will not turn its back on what's happening in Taiji until the dolphin hunt stops.
To see pictures and video of the hunt documented by the Sea Shepherd crew in Japan, please go to (click) http://www.seashepherd.org/taiji/.
You can voice your opposition to the "dolphin roundup" by contacting the following Japanese representatives:
Prime Minister of Japan
Minister of Fisheries