Sunday, August 5, 2012

My life after Taiji

Warning: This is going to be a long one. Where to begin..

I feel like this is incredibly overdue. It is not so much about dolphins, so if that’s all you’re interested in, stop reading now. No offense is taken. It is, as the title suggests, about how my life has changed since first coming to Taiji in October 2011. There have been some things that have been bothering me and I felt I wanted to get them off my chest so that I may have a bit of closure to it all. Do you care about any of this? Probably not, I guess it depends on the context in which you know me, but I’m writing it for me, and if anyone chooses to read it, that’s fine, too. And hey, this is my blog, so I can write whatever I want. :)

Ok, so, after my third and final trip of the 2011/2012 season, I was feeling the post Taiji blues and decided to sit down and reread my posts. I started at day one and relived every day, every slaughter, and every emotion in my mind like it was a clear as yesterday. I got to January, the morning of the bottlenose slaughter, and that’s where it ended. That was the last post I had written. I was a little confused at first; this was certainly not the last slaughter I had witnessed, and I’d even gone home and come back again since that last post. No, that was not the last slaughter I witnessed, but it was the last time I talked about it, and that has given me a lot of guilt. I cannot physically stop the fishermen from finding and killing dolphins. I cannot cut the nets and release the captive dolphins I see suffering. All I can do is tell the world about it, yet toward the end of my stint here, I watched the horror but said almost nothing. Well, this is the story..

I’ve heard so many people say they could never come to Taiji and do what we do because they wouldn’t be able to handle watching it. If you have said this before, it isn’t my intention to call you out, these are just my thoughts. I do not love this statement. First, I feel like it implies that whoever says it thinks they care more about dolphins than we do. This may not be true, but that’s often how I take it, and sorry, but no. Secondly, this statement has always confused me, because I don’t exactly understand what “can’t handle” means. Are they implying they are going to spontaneously combust from the extreme emotions of it all? Their very being will cease to exist? Doubtful. I think a better way to say it would be that they wouldn’t be able to handle it “well’. That is a statement I can comprehend, but while some do handle it better than others, I don’t know that any of us really handle it “well”. I for one did not, and it is that thought that brings me back to my blogging – err – lack thereof.

It was around January that I began to shut down. It was as if it was breaking me. The pain grew more immense with every slaughter I witnessed, but my ability to process it was diminishing. I remember coming back to the Charmant after documenting whatever bloodbath took place that day, going through my photos, stressing about getting as accurate of a dolphin count as possible, writing my SJD report - knowing that those words were some of the only words those dolphins were ever going to get, and most of all, trying to cry. I felt so much pain in my heart, but my body couldn’t let it out. I could feel the tears building up inside me, but I couldn’t ... I felt dead. And then I felt even more awful for having just watched the death of my family, and not even crying about it.

The drive hunts were not my only stressor though. Go figure, like every other human on the planet, I had other things weighing on me, too. I had just experienced my first Christmas away from home and my family, and even though I had an amazingly awesome Christmas with a dear friend and her family, it was still bothersome to have missed my traditions. Many people back home did not understand why I had made that choice. It was decided to extend my stay in Taiji another couple weeks, and as a result of that I had people close to me criticizing me for that decision. My marriage was falling apart in an undeniably obvious way. I was faced with having to once again abandon the dolphins and leave Taiji, and go back to my mess of a life at home, which now seemed so trivial.

The stress of it all must have been wreaking havoc on my immune system, because I then became the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. Pretty sure it was salmonella poisoning. So my last few days of that trip were absolutely brutal. I was so weak, but couldn’t keep even a sip of water down. I had my mom following the hunts on Save Misty’s page and sending me text message updates to let me know if a hunt was happening so that I could somehow drive to the Cove. With my temperature burning, all I could do was sit on the beach and dry heave, listening to the last few breaths a pod of striped dolphins would ever take. The next day I was then ordered to bed rest, so to speak, so that I would have the energy to make my upcoming flight home. Dolphins were being murdered in the Cove, and I was just sitting in my hotel room. It was probably essential for my health, but it was murder on my conscience. 

Back in the states, life had barely resumed before I was asked if I could come back and testify in Erwin’s court case. I think I’d been home about two weeks – two very rough weeks. I stressed about the decision of whether or not to go. It seems like an obvious one (yes), but there were serious potential repercussions no matter which way I went that needed to be considered. I decided yes - it’s always important to speak the truth, especially when it frees an innocent man. I headed back to Japan for the third time in three months. Let’s just say it was an “unpleasant” airport drop off, and I bawled my eyes out for pretty much the entire 12 hour flight. I stressed about people (mainly the police) misconstruing my actions to mean that I was now Sea Shepherd. I returned to Taiji. More slaughters took place. I sat in my busy hotel lobby, now unable to hold back the tears, sorting through pictures of dead dolphins, and having an online discussion with my husband that ultimately ended with the decision to get a divorce. I quite reluctantly left Japan once again, to “deal” with what my life had become. Crying and airplanes seem to go hand in hand for me. I’ll stop the story there, but within 2 months I had yet again boarded an airplane, this time headed for a new life in Australia.

This might sound a bit like I’m trying to have a pity party for myself. Well I’m not, this all happened 6+ months ago, so I’ve already been there, done that, gotten through it. That’s actually another one of the reasons I stopped blogging – I didn’t want to complain about my life, I wasn’t looking for sympathy and I didn’t want it to come across that way. This might also seem like a bit of an over share. Well, I’m guessing at this point my mom is the only one still reading… Hi mom.. and I found out a few months back that my divorce had made news on some Japanese anti-activist blog, so my “business” is out there anyways. I’m glad they’re taking an interest in our personal lives. And I suppose I could have shortened the story a few paragraphs by saying “my life was a living hell”, but I have had six hours to kill at the airport and I needed some form of self entertainment.

So that’s been my life since I last left off. It got worse, which I’m not going to go into, but now I’m loving Australia and loving life. It’s hard to regret anything that’s happened, because if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

And where I am now, is the Kansai Airport, fourth-time-heartbroken to be leaving the dolphins. I came on my week off from work to document the swim/with summer program in the Cove. Two risso’s are held in a seapen, and let out twice a day for 15 minutes at a time. Tourists are invited into the waters of the Cove to swim with and touch the dolphins. It costs nothing, and I imagine it’s somewhat of a free for all. I can only imagine the stress this puts on the dolphins. Even having to be back in that Cove must be absolute torture for them. The last time they were there, they watched as their family was murdered all around them. I can’t imagine what that must be like for them to be held captive there again… Unfortunately for my plans, there’s been a typhoon here, so the risso’s were taken out of the pen and I was not able to observe the program. I’m really disappointed about this, and I feel like I’ve had a really unproductive trip to Taiji. At least I know this is not my last time here, and I did get to check on and play with Hope, Faith, and the little striped dolphin at the Whale Museum.

For anyone still reading, I’m thoroughly impressed, and would like to thank you for the continued support. My life is completely different now, and I am a completely different person from when I first came to Japan. I wish that another season was not upon us already, but I can say that I am 100% ready for it, and I look forward to standing next to you all again, both in person and spirit.

In response to all the activist-against-activist drama that I’ve noticed/been a part of lately, I just want to acknowledge that each and every one of us involved in this cause is just trying to do everything they can for the dolphins, so for that, I thank you all. We may see things differently, but I encourage everyone to keep going. In the words of Save Misty the Dolphin: Never give up, never be silent.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Taiji Take Two: 2012 Begins, 40 Lives End

When I woke up this morning it had been two weeks since the dolphin killers had last gone to work, and two weeks since I saw dolphins slaughtered in the Cove.  The holiday break ended today though, and the fishermen did not hesitate to make up for the lost time.  The banger boats had only been out for about half an hour before spotting dolphins.  Two boats began herding this pod, while others continued to search for dolphins on the horizon.  It seems the two boats lost interest in this pod, perhaps because of it's small size or perhaps their still avoiding Risso's dolphins, but regardless of the reason, these dolphins were not pursued.  Our relief did not last though – it wasn't long before they located a much larger pod and began to drive it towards shore.  According to the fishermen (conveyed to us by the police), it was a pod of approximately 200 striped dolphins.  My heart stopped.

Driving a pod of this scale using only twelve boats must be next to impossible, so we were not surprised (although still somewhat relieved) when we saw nowhere near that many dolphins being pushed toward the harbor entrance.  Many had escaped, and the pod was now about 40-45 individuals.  This was one of the largest pods I have seen here in Taiji.
The boats slowly drove the dolphins towards the Cove, and divers lined the rocks, ready to intervene if and when the panic-prone dolphins entangled themselves in the nets or threw their bodies against the rocks in an attempt to flee.  Because the pod was so large, the fishermen were unable to push them all into the killing Cove (out of the range of our eyes and cameras) at once, and for a while there were dolphins cordoned off in three different sections of the Cove.  One lone dolphin swam between the outer nets while its family members were being slaughtered; watching, listening, and waiting.  After those dolphins already under the tarps were either killed or otherwise restrained, the fishermen opened the inside nets so they could drive the remaining individuals to their death.  The final lone dolphin was not cooperating with the skiffs and resisted swimming towards the now bloody beach.  A diver approached the dolphin and when it tried to flee, he grabbed hold of it.  The dolphin was clearly extremely stressed by this contact and made a mad dash towards its family, under the tarps and out of our sight, towing the diver the entire way.  His hand was placed over the dolphin's blowhole, and I wondered if he was trying to keep it submerged and out of our sight.

There was little more to be seen, but we could hear the dolphins still thrashing on the beach.  One dolphin managed to escape, and we could see its body lying on the bottom of the Cove.  It was too injured to come up for a much needed breath of air, and while we watched from high above, this little dolphin died, either drowning or from the extensive injuries inflicted by the dolphin killers.

The loud 'thud' of dolphin bodies being tossed into the skiffs filled the air.  As the first loaded skiff departed to deliver the bodies to the slaughterhouse, a fishermen noticed the dead dolphin in the water.  A diver came to collect it, and more divers began searching for any other potentially escaped dolphins that they had missed.

Blood tainted the blue waters of the Cove.

Peace has ended here in Taiji, and it is my wish for 2012 that we get it back, once and for all.


Here is a beautiful poem I saw shared today in response to their unnecessary deaths:

“A Hopi Prayer”

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there, I did not die.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Taiji Take Two: Captivity Kills

It has been a difficult 24 hours for those of us keeping an eye on the bottlenose dolphins in the Cove, either in person or through internet updates.  I spent a lot of time with them yesterday, knowing that for many of them, it would be their last night in this world.  After I could no longer stand the numbness in my fingers and toes, I guiltily headed back to the warmth and comfort of my hotel room. 
At around 10pm last night, we checked on them again.  The cove was lit up with lamps, to ensure no one could cut the nets and free the dolphins in the middle of the night.  Fortunately the lights were not terribly bright, nor were they shining directly on the dolphins, so hopefully this did not disturb them even more on their last night here. 
I could not see the dolphins, but I sat in silence and listened to their breathing.  There were long moments of silence, followed by the thunderous sound of many exhalations, one after another.  I'd hoped their synchronized breathing was an indication that they were resting together.  It brought me a little comfort to know they were relaxed enough to sleep, but I knew they must have been so terrified.
We arrived at the Cove before sunrise this morning and had to walk right past three guys in wetsuits to walk down to the beach.  I'm not sure if they were the dolphin killers or trainers who would be selecting dolphins for captivity, but either way it sent a chill down my spine. 
The sun began to illuminate the Cove, and the day's “work” began.   A boat full of trainers drove into the killing Cove, and the dolphins were pushed out of our sight.  All that we could perceive of them were their whistles which were picked up by a hydrophone.  In total, ten dolphins were placed in slings and dragged away from the Cove, their family, and their freedom.  Shortly after the last live dolphin was taken away, the whistles were silenced.  The boat full of trainers emerged from the Cove, followed closely by skiffs dragging the bodies of the remaining pod members.  Initially we estimated that there were about 25 dolphins in this group, but the information we received today is that 23 dolphins were slaughtered, so there must have been 33 dolphins total.

For some of this pod, life has ended.  It was much too soon, and at the hands of people who had no right to make this decision.  For the rest of the dolphins, life as they know it has ended, and now they must carry the pain of losing their family, home, and freedom, as they are shipped to who knows where in the world, all in the name of entertainment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taiji Take Two: Dolphin Base

Following the response of the livedoor blog's statement:

(livedoor blog)

To Heather,
Good to hear you admitting that you don't really know what's happening in Taiji, without making wild assumptions. You should ask yourself why pets stay around their owner. If you wish to have a conversation with Dolphin Base staffs, bring a good translater at your expense. (Don't assume they would speak/write to you in English - that's arrogant.)

Dear Japanese blog/Dolphin Base:

First off, apologies for the delayed response. I did not notice this comment until recently, and then it was a very stressful and hectic week of slaughters so I did not have the time to respond, but here you go!

I wouldn't go as far as to say I don't know what is happening in Taiji, because I see it everyday, but I will say that I don't fully understand the perspective and thought process of Taiji residents. I know what is happening, I just don't know why it is happening. And when I said in my previous post that I didn't understand, I was referring specifically to the 3 bottlenose dolphins enjoying a bit of freedom, and not understanding why or how. We can definitely make this a generalized statement, though, as well.

I would like to understand, though. I feel as if so many people look at this whole situation through their own eyes, their own way of thinking, and assume they have it all figured out. Clearly we do not think the same way though; we've grown up in completely different worlds and I think it takes more than limited observation of each other to understand one other. For instance, it's hard for outsiders to comprehend that there are in fact Japanese people who are against the slaughter but do not speak out, because it's not a big deal to stand up in other countries whatsoever. This is a completely foreign concept to us. But, with discussion, I think we can understand each other, and I think that would be very helpful to all parties involved - human and non human.

Now, on the reverse side of this, let's look at these 3 bottlenose dolphins. Unfortunately for them, we cannot have a discussion with them and 100% understand what they are thinking and why they do the things they do. The best we can do is to put ourselves in their shoes (flukes?) and discuss how we would feel, act, and what we would want, if we were in their positions. Now, it is in my personal opinion that they know what's best for them more than we could ever understand, so why wouldn't we just leave them be?

And no, I absolutely do not assume that the trainers at Dolphin Base speak English, and actually, I do have a translator and would love to have a 'get to know the other side' conversation with you (them?), if you would be open to it and could find the time. I have no intention or desire to sit down with you and simply pass judgement without really listening, so if you feel the same, I think we should make this happen! I will not be here much longer though, but again, you know where to reach me.

Now, one more comment for Dolphin Base:

I read this earlier today, and have taken it with a grain of salt because I did not hear the words directly, but I imagine the general idea is correct. Apparently the leaders of Dolphin Base have been in contact with the Fishermen's Union, asking that the pod of bottlenose dolphins currently being held in the cove right now not be slaughtered tomorrow.

Well, if this really is true, it is appreciated. HOWEVER, money will be given to the fishermen tomorrow, by possibly Dolphin Base, and certainly by other aquariums. I imagine the only reason these dolphins are still alive right now, as opposed to being slaughtered this morning, is because they are so popular in dolphinariums and not terribly common for the fishermen to encounter. Rather than just selling a couple to Dolphin Base, Dolphin Resort, and the Taiji Whale Museum, they can probably get many more aquarium representatives here and can sell quite a few and make serious money tomorrow. Then, when the profits have been made, why wouldn't they just kill the rest for meat that can be given away to local townspeople for free?

I can understand that you may be against the killing, but still want to purchase live dolphins, but do you not understand that if no one buys a live dolphin, and no one gives the fishermen money, they will not go out everyday looking for dolphins to bring into the cove? If there are no dolphins in the cove, none can be killed. Financially, they cannot afford this without the money from live dolphin sales. So please do not think that you should buy dolphins in order to save their lives (because those not purchased will probably be killed for meat), but instead voice your opposition to the slaughter by not financially contributing to it. Once you do that, I believe the drive hunts will end.

You've apparently asked the Fishermens Union not to kill dolphins tomorrow, and I'm asking you not to buy dolphins tomorrow. I think this subject is another 'unknown' between us that we can and should discuss.

Thank you for listening.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Taiji Take Two: 9 Days, 7 Slaughters

  It wasn't long after the banger boats left the harbor this morning that they found a pod of about 20-25 striped dolphins.  The dolphin hunters positioned themselves behind the pod and began to drive them towards the shores of Taiji.  They pushed them past the harbor entrance, but that's when the progress came to a complete standstill.  These dolphins looked exhausted, but this did not stop them from putting up an epic fight for their lives.
After about an hour-and-a-half of unsuccessfully trying to push the dolphins the short distance to the Cove entrance, the frustrated fishermen tried another tactic.  Two skiffs spread a net behind the pod in a horseshoe shape, in an effort to corral them into the Cove.  They must have been concerned about the dolphins becoming entangled in the net in plain view, because they drove very slowly, and three skiffs buzzed around, using their motors to frighten the dolphins away from the net.  The pod dove and disappeared, and when they surfaced again they were on the outside of the net.  The banger boats quickly caught up with them to prevent their ultimate escape, but it was amazing to see the dolphins causing trouble for the dolphin hunters.  The drive was put on hold while the skiffs rushed together, and the fishermen pulled the net back in as fast as they could.  The drive resumed.  The boats once again laid out the net behind the dolphins.  The dolphins once again escaped.  The hunters had to pull the net up for a second time.  As they laid it out for the third time, I looked down from the mountain and stared, in awe of the situation.  The sounds of terror filled the air.  Along with the voices of angry dolphin hunters, I could also faintly hear the peppy narration of the Taiji Whale Museum's dolphin show nearby, around the corner from the Cove.  I wondered if that meant the trainers, attendees, and dolphins could hear the shouting fishermen and noise from the banger poles at that moment, too?
The pod had outsmarted the fishermen all morning long.  Surely this meant they deserved to live, right?  In the eyes of the dolphin killers, no.  During the third attempt to drag the dolphins into the Cove, the boats were less patient, and two dolphins struggled to break through the net and swim away to freedom.  They quickly became stuck, and a diver jumped into the water.  After a minute or so, a tarp was held up on the skiff to block our view, and they pulled the now dead bodies into the boat.  The boats continued pulling the net, and eventually they sealed the remaining dolphins into the Cove. 

Though the pod had been fighting for at least five hours, they still went into panic mode as they were pushed closer to the beach.  They swam into the net, and they thrashed on the rocks.  Just like yesterday, we could hear the dolphins thrashing in the shallows after they'd been driven under the tarps.  Again, it seemed to last an eternity.  Every once in a while, the thrashing subsided, and we thought they'd all been killed, but then it would start up again.  One of the last living dolphins let out a very loud and unnatural scream that echoed throughout the Cove, piercing my heart like a knife.  It sounded a bit like captive dolphins when they are told to vocalize, but with so much more pain and fear behind it.

I have never before witnessed a pod put up such an equal fight against the high-tech fleet of dolphin-killing machines.  There were no survivors, but my heart is forever touched by their courage.  Rest in peace, brave little ones.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Taiji Take Two: The Raid

Part one, taken from official Save Japan Dolphins blog:

Today was, and will probably always be, the longest and hardest day of my life.  Last week we saw five slaughters in six days.  The dolphin killers of Taiji took yesterday (Saturday) off, so we had one day of peace, but today they were right back at it.  My hopes were soaring high when we spotted several banger boats headed back in this morning, but suddenly the boats turned and sped off to meet others that had apparently located a pod of striped dolphins.
From the lookout on Takababe Mountain, I could see that this pod still had a lot of energy, despite being chased towards the shores of Taiji.  Unlike the striped dolphins caught a few days ago that were all too exhausted to panic in the shallow Cove, these ones were quickly frightened by their ever-tightening world.  The fishermen had already prepared nets in the Cove to try and keep the dolphins from throwing themselves out of the water and getting stuck on the rocks, but it made no difference.  Once the final net was drawn, terror broke out amongst the dolphins.  Skiffs tried to position themselves between the rocks and dolphins, and divers sat on the rocks to push and kick the dolphins that slammed their bodies into the wall, tearing their skin open and staining the water with blood.  One dolphin made a mad dash into the net and became entangled, wrapping itself tighter and tighter as it thrashed, trying to get a desperately needed breath of air.  A diver jumped in to set it free, knowing we were watching with our cameras.  The chaos ensued for what felt like an eternity, and we tried in vain to put our cameras between the situation and us, hoping to make it seem less real and therefore easier to document.  I later had to clean the dried salt off of my camera from all the tears that had dripped down the view screen.

Finally the skiffs were able to push the frightened dolphins underneath the tarps.  They could hide the sight of what happened next from our eyes, but we could hear everything.  The 34 or so dolphins continued to thrash in the shallow water of the Cove.  Blood seeped into our view.  After what felt like forever, the thrashing began to be reduced, and finally ended altogether.  The dolphins were all dead, having suffered right up to the very end.  I felt dead inside.  I thought it was over, until I heard a loud thud, followed by another, and another.  The fishermen were tossing the dolphins' bodies into skiff to transport them to the slaughterhouse.  I have never been affected by a sound so much in my life.  This is a day that will be with me until the day I die.


Part two:

After watching the slaughter, Nicole and I went back to our hotel, still very upset. A police van followed us the whole way from Taiji, but there's nothing new there. I ran to my room for two seconds to drop off my camera bag, and then headed back to the lobby to hang out with Nic for a half hour until her train arrived. I walked into the lobby and found a ton of police, and they wouldn't let me upstairs to Nicole's room, or leave the lobby for that matter. I sat down and started sending out a quick message on my phone so someone would know something was up, but apparently that wasn't ok, either. I had no idea what was going on, and no one spoke English. I kept asking for our uniform police and they just kept saying no. I was already so upset by the so very recent slaughter, and this wasn't helping anything. I thought I was going to pass out, or have a mental breakdown, or spontaneously combust or something. They kept saying my name over and over again, but I had no clue what it was in reference to. I knew I'd done nothing illegal, but I still had to keep talking myself down. Finally, someone who did speak English came downstairs and explained that they had a warrant to search through all of our belonging, "because of our friendship with Erwin", the Sea Shepherd volunteer who was arrested a couple days ago. So they showed me the warrant, which was of course in Japanese, and I led ten of them to my tiny room. They looked through my belongings, my computer files, my emails, my camera memory cards, everything. They even frisked me. During this time Nicole was free to go catch her train, but instead of getting to walk with her to the train station, I could only hug her quickly in my room while surrounded by police, one of which was filming the whole thing. As soon as I got to see her, I lost it again. The stress of today was just absolutely insane.

Then they said they had a warrant to search my car, and they started looking under the hood and opening the gas tank, apparently looking for drugs. What? Why would you suspect I had drugs? And what did that have to do with Erwin? And if I DID have drugs, why would I put them in my gas tank??

After that it was over, for me, but they still wouldn't let me talk with the others, and I had no idea if they'd planned to make any arrests. At the end of the day none of us were taken in, however they did confiscate all of Sea Shepherds computers, hard drives and SD cards.

And that my friends, was my day. We're at 6 slaughters in 8 days. Here's hoping we get some much needed rest tomorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Taiji Take Two: Boiling Point

The tensions have hit an all time high here, as a result of the continued pressure of activists mixed with an absolutely horrible week of five slaughters in six days. I think each one of us are feeling at our wits end.

I can't believe that once again there was a slaughter yesterday. I have already seen more slaughters during my first week here this time around, then in my entire first trip, and there are still six more hunting days until the fishermen call it quits for the holidays. We have all breathed a huge sigh of relief because like we were told, the fishermen took today, Saturday, off, and the dolphins are safe for at least 24 hours.

Not only was yesterday stressful because of another horrendous slaughter, but the police arrested Sea Shepherd activist Erwin Vermeulen while he was trying to document the transfer of Risso's dolphins from the harbor pens into the above ground pools at Dolphin Resort, for allegedly pushing a Dolphin Resort employee. I was able to speak with the police about the future possibilities today, though a lot is still uncertain. According to Japanese law, he may be held for several days without being allowed contact with his fellow Sea Shepherd teammates, and even after that it could be another 20 days without visitation, depending on if there is an investigation and how it progresses. In my short, one hour watch on the rarely utilized mountain pass road this morning, I spoke with our Safety Police, and was intentionally driven past by the Coast Guard once, and Riot Police twice. One thing is for sure, things have definitely changed here in Taiji, and will likely continue to change as this case progresses.

Here is my official Save Japan Dolphins report from yesterday's slaughter and capture of yet another innocent pod of Risso's dolphins. More to come later...


It feels like Groundhog Day, and we're being forced to live the same day over and over again, here in Taiji, Japan.  

All twelve banger boats left on the hunt for dolphins this morning and found them almost immediately.  It was yet another small pod of approximately ten to twelve Risso's dolphins.  Since the boats had found them so close to shore, the dolphins still had a lot of energy and fight in them, and resisted the fishermen's efforts to push them into the Cove, at least for a short while.  We've never heard of the dolphins escaping once the boats have pushed them to the harbor entrance, but we were hoping today would be a first.  We watched the drama unfold in front of us, and it all felt way too familiar.  Once they were in the Cove, we could see several babies surfacing alongside their mothers. 
There was one dolphin swimming around with a fresh injury to its dorsal fin; the whole top had been severed off.  It looked as though it had run into a propeller, which wouldn't be a surprise after watching the small skiffs speed right through the center of the pod so many times in an attempt to control their movements.

Again, trainers from Dolphin Base arrived and disappeared under the tarps in the killing Cove to make their purchase for captivity.  Today they chose only one juvenile.  Once again I left the scene of the slaughter in order to meet them at the sea pens.  The skiff carrying the baby motored over to the same pen the two young Risso's from yesterday's capture are now living in.  The trainers kept this little dolphin in the sling for a few minutes and were huddled over it, taking measurements.  Finally, two trainers got in the water and nursed it into the pen.  It immediately joined the other Risso's dolphins.  I wonder if they'd ever met and played together in the ocean. 

Back at the Cove, a skiff departed carrying two to four live dolphins underneath a tarp, drove a ways offshore, and returned empty handed.  It is unknown what the fishermen were doing.  It could be that they were taking the mothers and juveniles back out to sea; however they have killed babies in the past, and if that is what they were doing, why would they cover it up?  I also wonder how they would identify the proper mother in such a chaotic grouping of dolphins.  If these dolphins did manage to survive today, they will be forever emotionally scarred from the loss of their family.  What a lonely night this will be for them.

The rest of the pod was killed in the secrecy of the Cove.

No dolphins were taken to the harbor pens today, but all was not quiet.  Two skiffs filled with trainers from Dolphin Resort were loading Risso's dolphins into slings.  I drove to the resort, hoping to document the crane lifting the dolphins out of the water and into the pools high above ground level, but they had gotten permission from local police to temporarily close the roads leading to the ocean side of the resort, so I was unable to watch.  Clearly they do not want us to share with the world their involvement in the dolphin slaughter.  At least we were able to verify who had purchased the dolphins.

Tomorrow is Saturday and supposedly the fishermen will have the day off, along with the next two Saturdays, until the hunting resumes again after their holiday break. I know I could use a day off to rejuvenate, and the dolphins will hopefully take tomorrow to continue on their way, far from this country.