Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 6: Rule # 32: Enjoy the little things

Here in Taiji, the good days aren't necessarily good, and the easy days aren't necessarily stress-free.

The day began with news that the boats had gone out. What a horrible thing to have to digest in the morning. You want a terrifying Halloween? Forget haunted houses, come to Taiji. There's nothing more terrifying than waiting to see if the boats will find dolphins. For hours there's nothing to do but sit and helplessly watch. We continually scan the ocean and try and decipher whether any of the boats (or the tiny dots way out on the horizon) look like they're coming together in a drive formation. To say it is stressful is an understatement.

By 9:00 am the banger boats started heading back in, empty handed. It seemed early for them to be giving up, especially considering the weather was so nice. Sunshine and flat seas, just what the dolphin hunters need in order to spot the fins of an unsuspecting pod. This did not alleviate any of the stress. Some of the boats were still pretty far out, and had they found dolphins the others would have turned around to help. One by one all twelve (very slowly) made their way back into the harbor, right between our two lookouts. I wondered if this felt anything like the walk of shame...

Not only was it strange that they'd given up so early, but we were spread out across town at our different vantage points and no one saw any real police activity. One single cop car passed by in the morning, but that was it. So where were they all? And why did the boats come back in so early? And why did it take them so long to come back in? And why were myself and two others up on Takababe being spied on by an unknown person hiding in the bushes? It was all very strange, although everything that happens in this town is strange. Maybe there was no real meaning behind any of it. Or maybe something else was going on that they were distracting us from. It makes me dream of the day when there are one hundred of us here, and nothing goes unnoticed. Then again, if I'm dreaming, there's no more need for our presence here.

Even after the last banger boat returned the morning continued to be very stressful, which I will not get into here on this public blog. It was also hot! I haven't gotten a sunburn in a looong time. All else aside, I spend the morning in sunshine, listening to birds chirping and starring out at a million dollar view of the Pacific Ocean. I actually really enjoyed that part. Then of course I felt incredibly guilty for enjoying weather that enabled the fishermen to find and murder dolphins. Everything here is a double edged sword. I think it's important to enjoy the little things here in the ninth circle of hell, otherwise you'll probably lose your mind.

Looking out at the entrance to the cove - Takababe Mountain

After destressing a bit in my hotel room, Leah took me to see the Taiji Whale Museum. This is nothing like the Whale Museum at home. From what she tells me, inside the building are a bunch of skeletons and whale fetuses (acquired by their own whaling and drive hunts, I'm sure) as well as cute and cuddly fuzzy pink stuffed dolphins so that you can love on them. While it does talk about their whaling traditions, it says nothing - absolutely nothing - about their dolphin drive fisheries. Well clearly this is a strong tradition, given the fact that they're hiding it to every extent! Once you've paid in the museum you can enter the dolphinarium section and see alllll the captives. OR you can walk around the side in the parking lot and look through the trees and see some of the tanks, which is what we did. While I would like to see what is inside and do a more thorough check on the dolphins, unless I am absolutely sure it would benefit them it's not worth giving the museum money.

What a distressing sight it all was. The pool closest to me has 3 bottlenose dolphins and one striped dolphin. The striped appeared to be handling captivity the worst, and logged there with just his rostrum out of the water. Though it is a very tiny tank, he did not approach or swim amongst the bottlenose dolphins. Striped dolphins are naturally a very gregarious species. This loneliness must be absolutely heartbreaking. This is the first time I've ever seen a striped dolphin, and I hate that it was under these conditions.

A lonely striped dolphin @ the Taiji Whale Museum

The next tank over housed one Pacific white sided dolphin. This dolphin kept making extremely loud exhalation type noises with its blowhole. Leah told me this was called "chuffing" and happens a lot in captivity when they are stressed or agitated. Guess that makes sense why I've never heard of it, the dolphins we see don't have a reason to do this! You could also hear very loud above water echolocation, and at one point I heard an awful screaming sound from one of them.

Trying to get attention @ the Taiji Whale Museum

There was a tank further back, which as far as I could see had at least one other Pacific white sided and bottlenose who both kept doing an exaggerated spy hop. Maybe they were trying to see the other dolphins? Or maybe they were just longing for attention from the staff standing nearby. The workers were spraying something in the water, but I have no idea what. Some sort of chemical to help keep the water clean, I suppose? Just like at Dolphin Base, they got very active when there were people around, even though they were not shown the slightest bit of attention. Not a pet, or greeting, or even eye contact. It reminded me very much of how the Canadian DFO wanted everyone to treat Luna
I've been thinking of starting a finventory at Dolphin Base and the Taiji Whale Museum. Could be difficult to obtain what I need for this though...

In theme with rule # 32, Leah and I went out for a Halloween celebration dinner. We broke away from the usual spots and came across a place that serves a great margarita pizza and ??? drink. I couldn't read the menu, but the title of one section was 'fruity liquor' so I randomly chose one and asked for it. Apparently what I ordered was 'hot and sour' and I said "oh, cold?" and he brought me a delicious (also pronounced dericious - there's actually a sign outside of the one of the restaurants that says that!) apricotty beverage. To participate in the Halloween Spirit Leah and I did a bit of face painting, and knocked on a few doors at our hotel!

Happy Halloween from the SJD Crew!

So maybe it wasn't the best of days, but thanks to rule # 32, we're ending on a good note. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 5: Rain and Dolphin Base

I've completely lost my sense of time. Every few hours I have to go back through my photos from each day in order to keep my days straight. Was there a slaughter yesterday? Did the boats stay in? Everything here seems to just run together. I'm running on Japan Standard Time and Pacific Standard Time, and being in Taiji makes it feel all the more unreal. What an awful twilight zone this place is.

When we met up downstairs this morning we got the word that the boats did not go out. An awesome way to start your morning! We decided to head into Taiji anyways, just to see what was going on. We stopped at one of the countless vending machines along the side of the road and I bought a can of hot chocolate. So weird, but so good.

The fishermen were busy at the Fishermen's Union (FU) transporting the rest of the meat from yesterday's hunt. I visited with the police who I'd met while watching the fishermen drag the bodies out of the cove. The police work 24 hour shifts here, so whoever we see in the afternoon, we know we'll see in the morning. I'm on a first name basis with 4 of them now, which is nice. It makes this place seem just a tiny bit friendlier.

Since the cove was empty, they took the opportunity to drive Ady Gil's boat into the cove and get a look at it. No police or coast guard came (not that this was illegal), however there was an older woman walking down the street who stopped and stared, and then a car drove past, and he too stopped and stared and started talking to the woman. Not a sight they see everyday!

Early afternoon it started raining. No, it started pouring. Washington type rain, the kind that just doesn't stop. Since I am only here for a couple more weeks I didn't want to waste my time inside my room, so I decided to drive to Dolphin Base and check on the captives. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got there. The first time I went with Leah there were no trainers around. This time there were about 15 of them, and they were out around the pens feeding the dolphins. I'd heard that they've told people to leave before, but the worst they can do is tell you to go, and so I grabbed my camera and decided to see what would happen. They didn't seem too phased by my presence, at least not that I could tell. I was just one person though, and I wasn't being disruptive. I even said hello to one of the trainers as they walked by. In Japan, being polite goes a long way. The dolphins were much more active this time around, as they always are during feeding time. In order to keep the dolphins under their command the trainers pretty much starve them. The dolphins seemed to be trying to get the trainers' attention. Maybe they thought if they impressed them enough they'd finally get some fish. Wherever the trainers stood, the dolphins followed.

In one of the pens there were a few young trainers in the water with the dolphins. They would sign simple tricks, telling the dolphins to roll over or show their flukes, then they'd blow their whistle and the dolphin was given the tiny fish. I got the impression that these trainers were still learning (at Dolphin Base there are trainers, and people learning to become trainers). Whenever a dolphin performed a command the trainers shot an excited look at one another. They seemed to really enjoy working with the dolphins, and not just 'heartlessly' commanding them around like they're playing almighty dictator. Don't read too much into that statement though, it's just my observation and I could be wrong. After all, Taiij is the dolphin abuse capitol of Japan. Besides, most trainers feel the same way. They 'love' the animals they work with, and many claim to have deep friendships with them. If you visit SeaWorld you'll find a park full of trainers either in denial or grossly misled. I would bet that very few have a realistic concept of what captivity does to dolphins. This gives the hope that if given the proper education, these trainers will leave the business and join the fight against dolphin captivity as so many have done in the past, including many SeaWorld trainers in recent years.

After about 20 minutes of watching and filming I had to give up. My jeans were completely soaked, which didn't bother me given the situation, but I was having a difficult time keeping my camera dry in the now sideways rain.

And that was pretty much my day, as best I can tell. I wish I'd stop leaving these blog posts for so late at night...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 4: Sun, Boats, and Dolphin Slaughter

It was a gorgeous morning in Taiji. Sunny and warm, with very little wind. This was not good news to any of us. It was perfect weather to go dolphin hunting.
Banger boats leaving the harbor
We drove by the harbor and sure enough the fishermen were on the banger boats, preparing them to go out. From our lookout we watched all 12 banger boats drive single file out of the harbor and spread out to begin their hunt. They went way offshore, and Leah and I left the lookout point to go out on Ady Gil's vessel to try and find them. I'm very comfortable on boats, obviously, since I work on one, so it didn't dawn on me that I might get seasick. I'd forgotten just how sheltered our inland Salish Sea was, and my body did not agree with being out in the unimpeded  Pacific Ocean. As soon as I felt it coming on I tried to follow the advice of my good friend Caroline, who had learned to overcome it while sailing. I stared out at the horizon, sat myself in a spot where I'd get a lot of fresh air, though it was a bit hard with the wind pushing the diesel fumes towards me, and I tried not to think about it. Then I lost it. Thankfully it came in waves (no pun intended) and between my vom sessions overboard I felt fine. Then we found out that we'd missed the boats coming back in and they were already driving a pod of about 10 Risso's into the cove. By the time we got back to our dock and Leah and I hiked up Takababe Mountain, they had all been murdered.

Takababe Mountain is the right side of the cove if you're looking out at the ocean, and is an exhausting hike. Very steep concrete stairs. 3 weeks of this and I'll either pass out, or have legs of steel. Once it leveled out I was shocked at how little you could actually see. There were ropes and barricades everywhere, all from the Town of Taiji. Sea Shepherd even noticed fishermen putting huge bamboo stems into the ground the other day, which now obstructs what little view they did have. They did not have a permit to do this, so we'll see what happens with that. Technically they were trespassing as well, and would need to get permission from the city to do. And of course, there are police everywhere. Today I learned that there are Wakayama Police, Local Police, Riot Police, "Plain-clothes" Police, police who are undercover, and Coast Guard. That's a whole lot of time and money being spent for twenty-something fishermen, and I can't believe the profits from the drive hunts outweigh the money being poured into what is basically a private security detail. So where is this money coming from, and who is giving the orders to have roughly 30-50 officials on the ground around the clock? This story is about so much more than just dolphin meat, we just have to find out what that story is.

All 12 banger boats spreading out to search for dolphins

The Coast Guard was very aware of our presence on the water, and blocked the cove with their vessel
The fishermen try to coverup the evidence of a kill, but here you can see the flukes of a dead Risso's

Will be back on the ground tomorrow, this time with a radio to communicate with the boat. Hoping for wind and a relaxing Sunday!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 3: A windy first morning in Taiji!

 ...What did we do today?? I think the jet lag has caught up to me. I'm feeling a bit delirious, not really having a clear sense of time. I thought I knew what I'd done today, then I looked through my pictures and realized I'm getting my days confused. Well, to the best of my ability, here's what I can remember from today:

When we met outside of our hotel at 5:30 this morning it was slightly windy, but it's hard to judge what the sea will be like while in town so we crossed our fingers that it was windy enough that the boats would stay in the harbor. Strong wind make for a rough trip, but more importantly, with so many white caps it is incredibly difficult to spot a pod of dolphins. Along our drive to Taiji we passed the fish market that is shown in The Cove movie and saw them lining up tuna on the ground, getting ready for the auction. We drove past the harbor and saw the fishermen gathered around a fire. Leah told me they do this every morning and were getting the weather report from the Coast Guard and deciding whether or not they'd go out to try and find dolphins. No one was preparing the banger boats at that point, so things were looking good. The sea was pretty rough, but we waited at the lookout for a while just to make sure. There was a police car who drove by ours and Sea Shepherd's car (they knew where we'd be watching from), but because they did not speak English they did not stop and talk. Happy to report that the boats did not go out today! That made it possible for us to relax and enjoy the beautiful rising sun.

On our way back to Katsuura we stopped at Dolphin Resort and checked on the dolphins in the sea pens. What a depressing sight that was, they looked so very bored. Many of them would come up for a breath of air and then they'd just log on the surface for a few moments. Others surfaced under small pieces of wood, balancing it on their backs. That must be a desperate form of entertainment in their incredibly tragic existence, living in those pens. The pens are right around the corner from the cove, which means that almost every day these dolphins hear the banging of the metal poles as the fishermen drive a pod of dolphins into the cove, just like what happened to them the day they were captured. Day in and day out they hear the frightened screams of dolphins. What torture that must be. I learned that every once in a while a dolphin will actually jump out of its pen, but the trainers do not seem concerned, and the dolphin sticks very close to the pens. Once it is feeding time the trainers are able to coax it back in because it's hungry. This of course makes you wonder why they don't just leave if they're successful in escaping their pens. Sure, that's what we'd do, right? It seems so simple and obvious. So why don't they? Well first let's acknowledge that humans and dolphins are very different. We do not think the same way a dolphin does; because we're separate species our brains operate in a totally different manner. That being said, I can say that if I were in that situation, and every day I heard the screams of dying dolphins coming from the direction of the escape route, I probably wouldn't go running that direction either. But again, we have no idea how the dolphins perceive the situation, and so we can only speculate as to why they do not leave. Perhaps if all of them were released together they would go.

Since the boats did not go out, we had the whole day to do whatever and Leah decided to show us Hotel Urashima across the harbor. This hotel has natural hot springs inside, and provides an excellent view point of Katsuura and Taiji. Because it is built into a mountain and is so high above sea level it is the emergency evacuation spot in the event of a tsunami. To get to Hotel Urashima we took the little white turtle ferry that you can see in The Cove movie. I had my camera out and when the ferry docked a man stepped off and said something in Japanese and held his hand out for my camera. We weren't sure if he was wanting to confiscate it or what, but then he told us to put our bags down and pose with the boat. He kept telling us to flash the stereotypical peace sign, then he'd rearrange us and take another. Once we docked on the other side of the harbor he disembarked the ferry with us, took my camera again, and started picking flowers from the hotel garden for Leah and I to put in our hair. He had us pose once again, and again and again. It was so bizarre we couldn't stop laughing. It's great to encounter such friendliness!

Once inside the hotel we visited a gift shop and I saw my first whale meat. They actually had a whole display of it sitting in a little replica of an old whaling ship. Obviously I couldn't read what any of it said, but given the different types of packaging it looked like there was quite of variety of how it was prepared. Investigations have shown that what is labeled as minke whale meat is often meat from a different whale species or even a dolphin. I wonder what kind of coverup I was looking at...

After checking out the vantage point and visiting a temple at the hotel we headed back to the cove. I drove this time, and surprisingly did totally fine. The only problem I had (and kept having) was that the blinker is on the wrong side of the steering wheel, so I kept turning on the windshield wipers. From what they tell me, you never really get used to that part so I guess I did well! I managed to keep it in the right lane, which is of course the left lane, the whole time! When we arrived at the cove there was another car in the parking lot, and it wasn't long after we got there that the police arrived to see what we were up to. I met 3 more officers and again they were all extremely nice. They talked, joked, and laughed with Leah and I for about 10 minutes before leaving. The solitary car remained in the lot.

Time to prepare for tomorrow, hoping day 4 is as lucky as day 3 was!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 2: Welcome to The Cove

Today I successfully navigated the train transfers and made it to KiiKatsuura! Special thanks goes to one very nice conductor who came and got me right before my train arrived, brought me over to where I would get on, and wrote the next train down on a piece of paper. The final train ride, which was just over 2 and a half hours long, winded along the coastline and had spectacular views of the Pacific. Though I didn't actually pay for it, I sat in the reserved seating section of the train, but only because that was the car I boarded and it was too much work dragging my luggage down the aisle. Several times during the trip train employees walked through the car, and every time they would bow once they entered, and then turn and bow again as they were exiting. What a different world I am in.

This ride was a bit more interesting than the others - they said a great deal over the intercom, but never in English. And I'm almost positive they said KiiKatsuura at every stop, which meant I had to quickly run through the train car at ever stop trying to find the station sign that said in English where we were.

Found the right stop, stared at the 56 stairs I had to drag my 4 bags up and down, sweat a river and tore open the suitcase-handle blisters on my palms, got motioned from across the street into what I thought was my hotel, was actually a restaurant, found my hotel, and found Sea Shepherd, Ady Gil, and Save Japan Dolphins all on their computers in the lobby. Yeay for finding friends!

After renting my car the SJD crew showed me around Taiji, pointing out the areas of interest as we drove. Ric was absolutely right about what he said in the movie - if you didn't know better, you'd think this was a town that loved dolphins and whales. They're everywhere! Statues, wall murals, graphics on vehicles, you name it. The strangest part though is that it does not feel strange to be here in person. It feels oddly normal - like, of course I'm here, why wouldn't I be?

When we pulled into the parking lot at the cove, there was one car already parked, with people inside. Apparently there is always a car there, and they do not get out, they just sit and take notes. There were a few Coast Guard officers there as well, and we walked by so that I could meet them. They mentioned that we had a new car, which is pretty impressive observation skills seeing how we all have the same car, just different license plates. Within a few minutes, more Coast Guard showed up, as well as the Police. They walked down the steps so that Leah could introduce us and they could get my passport info. They were surprisingly very friendly. I've heard they are, but I still expected a bit of indifference if not animosity from them. Instead, they chatted with us and I overheard them tell Leah how nice she always is. They'd also been telling her they were excited to meet 'her new colleague', and were all smiles as they spoke with us. It's funny that they were looking forward to my arrival at the same time I was being interrogated by Immigration for the very same reason... Especially since they are the ones who actually deal with it all. You can tell that they aren't against us - or at least our particular organization. It's awesome that SJD has maintained such a good relationship with them; they're here to protect us as much as they are to make sure we don't break any laws. It was pretty interesting seeing the quick response and gathering though. By the time we left, around 6pm when no dolphins were in the cove, there were about 10 of them. Leah mentioned that they'd probably do a drive by of our hotel tonight to see that all of our cars are parked.

The actual cove is a beautiful place. Such amazing scenery, it's a real shame it can't just be used as a park like it's supposed to be. In hindsight, I'm actually kind of glad yesterday worked out how it did. Had I gotten on the train last night like I'd planned, I'd have woken up this morning and witnessed the slaughter of about 10 Risso's dolphins. My first introduction to The Cove would have been death and bloody water. Because I arrived today, I was able to see it for its natural beauty and nothing more. I hear once you see a slaughter, you'll never see that place the same again.

In 8 hours we'll head to The Cove to see if the boats go out, and if they do, well, you know the rest. The wind was really blowing tonight, so here's hoping it continues through the night and the boats stay in the harbor!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 1: If it can go wrong, it will

My motto for the day was to be positive; stay in a good mood and just roll with the punches! Whatever happened, happened, if it was out of my control then I might as well just make the best of it and not let it ruin my mood. Well, that was the plan. And it even worked, for a while.

Stop one: SeaTac. I guess I packed too much... Kind of a girl thing. Delta has a weight limit for luggage, and that weight limit was 25lbs below what my suitcase weighs. I was told that the fees for a bag that overweight would run me $200 - each way. The lady was thankfully quite friendly and suggested I run downstairs and purchase a separate bag so that I can distribute the weight. Perhaps I should have rolled the suitcase around my apartment a bit before I left, I would have realized what a pain that + a carry on + a heavy camera bag was to drag long distances. SO, got my now two bags checked, and was pleased to learn there was no fee for an extra bag. My bag passed weigh in with a 2 pound margin. This day was starting out just fine!

The flight was great, I actually really enjoyed it! I had a window seat and no one sat next to me so I was able to stretch out and keep comfortable the whole time. Best part was the view. We flew right over the Olympic Mountains so there was a beautiful view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then all along the west side of Vancouver Island. The Pacific Northwest really is breathtakingly gorgeous, especially from that angle. OH! And I saw a lake that looked like a killer whale!

Once we got further offshore the clouds took over, but cleared as we passed over Russia, which has a pretty unique beauty of its own. Once we started flying over what I figured should be Japan, I looked down and saw a large ship. A twinge of pain shot through my body as I realized that could very well be a whaling or dolphin/porpoise hunting vessel. I proceeded to scrutinize every boat I saw until we landed. Oh, I noticed these pens, which remind me of the dolphin pens in Taiji. Could be for aquaculture (fish farms)?

Then we landed, and that's when the fun began. I must have looked like an idiot by the way, walking around alone with a big smile, taking way too many pictures... Anyways when we got to customs they wanted to know where I would be staying so I wrote the name of the hotel, Charmant, as well as the city, KiiKatsuura. I instantly regretted that decision. I wish I'd thought to look up the name of a hotel in Osaka. As soon as she saw where I was headed she called over an Immigrations Officer who pulled me in a security room. He spoke very little English and got a translator on speaker phone so he could begin to drill me. What was the purpose of my visit? Why KiiKatsuura? Who was I meeting? How did I know them? Where did I work? Where is the Olive Garden located? How much money do I make a month? Then every once in a while the two would converse in Japanese and he'd say pretty much the only thing he knew how to say "We're going to take a break", and walk out of the room for 5 to 10 minutes. This went on for over an hour, and I was terrified. I didn't know how long they were going to keep me there or what the possibilities were. I was also dead tired after having been awake for the past 40 hours. Yeah, I decided not to sleep the night before the flight hoping that I could sleep on the plane, but I had too much adrenaline for sleep. At one point he came back in the room to find me with my elbow on the desk, chin resting in my hand. He swatted my elbow off the desk. Oops, apparently I offended him. Good thing I was afraid he'd throw me in jail, it was the only thing keeping me calm and in line. His final round of questions was much more to the point: what did I know about Taiji, would I be going to Taiji, have I heard of Sea Shepherd, have I ever been to a Sea Shepherd event, blah blah blah. I considered pulling out my Save Japan Dolphins gear just to convince him I wasn't Sea Shepherd, but I wasn't sure that it would really help my cause. Eventually denial won, and he let me go.

At this point I was not only exhausted and flustered, but now I had to find my train station before my train left - being detained hadn't really helped my schedule. Again, I dealt with the ridiculous heft of my luggage. Good thing I was only told to go 3 different places in order to purchase a train ticket! After waiting in the very long line, it was my turn at the counter, and what do I find out? The train I'd planned on taking didn't exist. Neither did my back up, should I miss the first one. And that's when the tears started flowing. The guy at the counter didn't speak much English, but he did know "I'm sorry", which he said over and over again as I tried to, at the very least, delay my breakdown for a more appropriate time. He got me a ticket for the next train to KiiKatsuura, a good 14 hours after I'd planned. I wrestled to get my suitcases out the door, moved a few feet over, sat on the ground, and bawled uncontrollably. I have never felt so alone in my life.

I gave myself a few minutes to let it out, then forced myself to pull it together. As luck would have it, this little meltdown took place right next to the airport hotel, which is where I'm writing to you from, now.

This day is coming to an end and I couldn't be happier for that. Not only is tomorrow a new day, but if bad things really do come in 3's, I should be in the clear.

On a side note, I noticed these hanging at the train station. Wonder what it says - welcome to Japan where we murder and eat dolphins?!

Tune in tomorrow to see how I do navigating the Japanese train system... :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Welcome to my blog!

On October 25th 2011 I will be traveling to Japan as a volunteer for Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project, Save Japan Dolphins, to help raise awareness about the annual dolphin slaughter that occurs in an infamous place known as "the cove". I will be there for three weeks.

About 20,000 dolphins are murdered every year throughout Japan. In Taiji, pods of dolphins are chased into a cove by banger boats. These boats are equipped with long metal poles extending down into the water, and by banging on these poles the fishermen are able to create a wall of sound that frightens and disorients the dolphins. Dolphins are acoustic creatures; sonar is their primary sense, so they swim away from this noise as fast as possible, right into a small cove which is then netted off. Most of the dolphins are brutally slaughter in the most inhumane ways imaginable. They thrash about in the bloody water, hear the screams of their dying family members, toss their bodies up on the sharp rocks in an attempt to flee, and know that their fate will soon be the same as those around them. Studies on dolphin brains have shown that their brains have more spindle cells than human brains - spindle cells are what enables emotion; in this case fear, confusion, and loss.

Not all of the dolphins are killed. A select few are "spared" and sold off to a torturous life in captivity, forever carrying the memory of the slaughter of their pod. Most of these dolphins are kept in holding pens until purchased by an aquarium. These pens are within hearing range of the cove, so the captives can hear other dolphins being murdered, day in and day out. It is the captivity industry that financially fuels these dolphin drive hunts. A dead dolphin is only worth a few hundred dollars, while a live dolphin can go for up to $150,000. Remove captivity from the equation and the dolphin drive hunts would no longer be financially viable. The 'blood dolphins' are purchased by aquariums all over the world, and as close to my home as the Vancouver Aquarium (Spinnaker, possibly Hana and Helen). In my opinion, the captives are the ones getting the short end of the stick, not those who are brutally murdered (there are so many links I could throw in here about captivity, but as a starter here's an article about the life of Tilikum, and and a great organization called The Orca Project).

Save Japan Dolphins is working to end this practice through education, documentation of the slaughter, and bringing to light the connection between captivity and dolphin drive hunts. YOU can help end this practice by refusing to by a ticket to a marine park that has captive dolphins.

To learn more about the dolphin drive hunts, watch The Cove and visit

Follow along as I embark on the most important (and probably scariest) adventure of my life. Special thanks to Tori Cullins (Wild Dolphin Foundation), Tim and Carrie Burns (Save Japan Dolphins), and everyone else who's been so supportive. See you all on the other side! :)