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...

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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.

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