Sea Shepherd

My time in Taiji

A few days ago I sat and tried to write a new blog entry. I only got one sentence out before I shut the computer.

The days here in Taiji are long and emotional.

I was searching for words after a tragic and sad day. It had been the seventh slaughter in eight days. A beautiful family of Risso’s dolphins had been driven into the cove on January 27, 2013. A family of 56-58 individuals, who were swimming freely in the ocean were chased down and trapped in nets. The fishermen killed 26 without hesitation that day. We later realized they may have hit their quota on Risso’s and that would be the only reason the rest were spared.

I can still picture the juveniles swimming close to their mothers as they were pushed farther from other family members. The fear and confusion they must have been experiencing still fills me with emotion and tears. As the family was separated by men, boats, and nets, the outcome became clear. Soon we could hear the struggle beneath the tarps. The distinct sound of thrashing that confirms the dolphins are being slaughtered.

That sound invokes emotion that really isn’t describable. I think you must experience it to even grasp what it does to you. The rest of the family was left to swim within the nets as they watched and listened to their family’s slaughter. They were then subjected to the fishermen driving boat after boat filled with the bodies of their loved ones past them. I can only imagine the trauma that the horrifying procession caused those sentient beings.

Sentient. I want to just say something about that word and what it means. Sentient means to be aware or finely sensitive in perception or feeling. Whales and dolphins are sentient beings. Then there is the scientific matter of what are known as spindle cells within the brain. Humans have them. They are what creates and allows for social bonds, connections, and relationships. Consider how you feel about your family, your pets, and friends. That emotional connection and love. The bond you feel for those you love. Those are your spindle cells hard at work.

Dolphins have more spindle cells in their brains than humans. According to New Scientist, “Spindle cells, named after their long, spindle-shaped bodies, are the cells that are credited with allowing us to feel love and to suffer emotionally.” A documentary by BBC shows that, “some whales and dolphins have three times as many spindle neuron cells as humans. Spindle cells are thought to make us feel love and emotion.” Now imagine experiencing what those dolphins experienced. Sometimes I wish I could force those feelings and pain on the dolphin killers and the dolphin trainers that work along side them. I am willing to bet they would collapse from the heartache it would cause.

Two weeks in Taiji changed my life forever. Going home was wonderful because I missed those I love. But the moment I boarded the train for the airport I felt how badly I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leave Taiji and the beauty of Japan. I didn’t want to leave my family of Cove Guardians who I miss tremendously. Mostly I didn’t want to leave the dolphins. The ones who will be slaughtered and dragged to a butcher house and the ones left scared in the nets of captivity for the rest of their lives. Leaving them felt like an act of abandonment.

I had been worried leaving would be hard but just like witnessing the horrors of Taiji with my own eyes, I wasn’t prepared for the pain. My two weeks went by in a blur but at the same time I can remember every single detail. I remember the slaughters and how my chest would ache, my throat would tighten, and the view through the camera lens would blur from my tears. I remember the sounds that came from below the tarps in the killing cove. The dolphin tails hitting the water as they struggled and died. I remember the trainers yelling as they selected the pod members taken for a life of captivity. And I remember the laughter of the fishermen after they had just killed an entire family.

I know I will go back because part of my heart and soul will always be there now. More than anything I am more determined now to see an end to marine mammal captivity. All the lives lost in Taiji to slaughter and captivity are because of that industry. I do not feel like this is a losing battle, which some people say to me. I know we can win this. I know we can end the cruelties of dolphin captivity and see the day where the waters of the cove are forever blue.

Thank you for reading.

Rachel

“May all beings be wild and free.”

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Cove Guardian, Dolphins, Sea Shepherd, Taiji, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Taiji – Hell on Earth for dolphins

DSC_0079The beauty of Taiji, Japan is undeniable. There are views here that will literally take your breath away. No photo can do it justice. A couple of mornings ago the Cove Guardians all headed out to a lookout to watch for the gut wrenching “drive formation” of the hunting boats. While walking down the stairs we all had to stop to admire the gorgeous sunrise that was occurring. The orange glow was illuminating the rocky cliffs as it appeared on the horizon. I personally have never seen a sunrise so beautiful. The beauty here is evident and amazing.

The part that is hard to comprehend is the absolute horror that takes place amongst it all. I have been in Taiji as a Cove Guardian for six days and witnessed four slaughters. Three of those four slaughters resulted in dolphins being taken captive as well as being murdered. Monday, January 21, 2013, a family of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins were destroyed by this annual hunt. On this particular day the abuse and disrespect for these animals was appalling. The trainers were present once again for the capture process. They originally selected 27 for a life of slavery in the captive industry. The stress and violence of the hunt and capture resulted in the death of two dolphins before they could even be thrown into the sea pens. How can the Mayor of Taiji say that this hunt is humane and ethical when animals selected to actually survive die in the process? When these poor souls died at the hands of those who claim to “love” them, their loss was not mourned for even a moment. The dolphins that were first considered slave-trade quality were simply thrown onto a boat and hauled away to the butcher house. Their sacrifice was never considered by the killers or the dolphin trainers. They simply joined their slaughtered family members in a pile of waste and death.

Everyday that the hunts take place and the dolphin families are ripped apart shows an absolute lack of compassion and respect. This lack of compassion and respect is not a statement about Japan and the Japanese people. It really bothers me when “supporters” make hateful and racist comments about Japan and the people that live here. These hunts involve a handful of people when compared to all of the country’s population. The fishermen, trainers, buyers, and the few individuals who knowingly eat dolphin do not represent the entire country. The individuals that are a driving force in this annual atrocity live all over the world. Every European or American that takes their family to SeaWorld is responsible. Every hotel or resort owner that enslaves dolphins for tourists seeking a thrill while on vacation is responsible. The dolphin trainers across the globe who KNOW the extent of intelligence and self awareness that these animals have are responsible. The hunts occur to satisfy a demand for captivity. Eliminate the demand and you can end the source of supply.

I say it all the time and I will keep saying it until marine mammal captivity is eliminated, DO NOT BUY A TICKET TO A DOLPHIN SHOW OR SWIM WITH DOLPHIN PROGRAM. Do not support any hotel, resort, or business that profits off the lives of these animals. Every ticket purchased is encouragement for these fishermen to go out with their boats to hunt dolphins.

Thank you for reading.

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Cove Guardian, Dolphins, Sea Shepherd, seaworld, Taiji | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My first days as a Cove Guardian

Being here in Taiji, Japan is incredibly surreal for me. To stand on the beach at the cove is a feeling I am not even sure I can put into words. This post is my first in a very long time. I have been planning this trip for months now and the fundraising and planning kept me very busy. Nevertheless, here I am in Japan. I am sitting in my hotel trying to work through what I have experienced since my arrival on January 16th. Travel to Japan was long but actually pleasant because I traveled here with a good friend and fellow SSCS On-Shore Volunteer. The people I have met in the last couple of days are extraordinary. They are from various countries around the world and we all speak in our own accent and language, but our reason for being here is the same.

I should mention that before this trip, I had NEVER seen a dolphin in real life. I have only ever seen them in books, movies, online and on tv. The first and only dolphins I’ve seen are either suffering a life in captivity here in Japan or were brutally killed in front of me this week. I think this is a clear message that you do not need marine parks and captivity in order to appreciate a species and want to save its future.

Today was by far one of the worst days of my life. It was only my second day of watching the fishermen leave on their boats to hunt mercilessly for dolphins, but it will be a day that I never forget. A beautiful pod of Bottlenose dolphins was driven into the cove in Taiji, Japan. Their lives were destroyed one by one by people whose vile actions are something I will never understand. I stood and witnessed as these 38 amazing, innocent animals were driven by a wall of sound into the deadly nets.

I have constantly kept up with the events happening in Taiji. I have seen The Cove at least a dozen times with friends and family as I try to educate as many people as possible. The images, the articles, the videos, none of it prepared me for witnessing a capture and slaughter with my own eyes. The trainers are some of the most baffling and disturbing people on earth. They spend every single day working with dolphins and claiming to “love” them. It only took a few minutes for them to arrive in the boats once they got word that Bottlenose dolphins had been driven into the cove. They stood up in the boat and acted excited as they looked over the day’s catch. The trainers work side by side with the fishermen who will slaughter any dolphin not purchased by them. Together, the trainers and the fishermen are some of the most horrible and sadistic people I have ever seen. One by one dolphins were violently handled and put into painful slings and hauled away from their family. You can hear the trainers yelling as they try to wrangle the frightened juveniles away from their mothers. These people do not love dolphins. They love the money the dolphins bring to them. The trainers selected 13 dolphins to suffer a life in captivity.

It was painfully clear when the slaughter began underneath the tarps. The thrashing and tail slapping that occurred is a sound that will forever live in my mind. It was agonizing to stand there and know that those animals were being brutally and violently killed. We stood in silence listening as the dolphins fought and struggled until after several minutes the thrashing ended. Again, this is a sound I will hear in mind as long as I live. There is no way to forget it. After it ended the last and thirteenth victim taken into a life of captivity was hauled away on a sling. This means that dolphin watched and listened to its entire family get murdered BEFORE being hauled away from their dead bodies. The trauma that dolphin endured makes my heart ache.

Taiji is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is incredible that such a horrible and disgusting thing can take place here. I am glad that 17 Cove Guardians were here today to witness the last moments of this Bottlenose family. Together we (and past and future CGs) are helping spread the word about this dark secret. This is not a proud tradition or cultural right. If it were there would be no tarps hiding the slaughter as it happens. There would be no police monitoring every move the activists make. They want to hide everything that is going on in Taiji. If it is a tradition then what are you so ashamed of? Why wouldn’t you want the world to see what you are doing?

Taiji has changed me in so many ways and my time here has only just begun. To those who helped me get here, thank you so much. To the dolphins, I am so sorry for what is happening to you. We have polluted your home, stolen your food source, and now certain people in this world make a living off your pain and suffering.

RIP to the 24 beautiful souls that left our world today, but also to the 13 lives that will now suffer in the world of captivity, my thoughts and heart are always with you.

Thank you for reading,

Rachel

A bottlenose is dragged back by a diver after trying to escape the nets in the cove

A bottlenose is dragged back by a diver after trying to escape the nets in the cove

DSC_0910

Four dolphins swim close together in their last moments of life

A captive dolphin is transferred from the ocean and it's family to a life of slavery

Two dolphins are taken away from their home and their family. You can see their frantic family members swimming nearby.

Categories: Cetaceans, Cove Guardian, Dolphins, Sea Shepherd, Taiji | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Another season of blood and death in Taiji

I was hoping for a blood-free weekend out of Taiji, Japan. I was hoping the fishermen would continue to come back to the harbor without any dolphins, but this weekend marked the first deaths in the 2012-2013 dolphin hunting season. A pod of pilot whales were found on Friday and driven into shore. The nets were dropped and the family of about 25 or 26 were all trapped, awaiting their fate. They were held overnight in the cove to allow trainers to come select the animals that they wanted to buy. Three of the pilot whales were chosen for a life a captivity yesterday. The rest of their family, about 21-23 others, were all slaughtered and dragged to the butcher house.

I cannot believe how shocked I still am after a slaughter has taken place. I have been following the dolphin hunts in Taiji for a couple of years now, but it is still a somber and dark day for me when a family of these peaceful creatures are killed. It is senseless and barbaric and such a shameful moment for those involved. My heart goes out to the 3 juveniles taken into captivity this weekend. They were first chased into the cove by boats and trapped there, then separated from their pod by loud and forceful humans, and finally they had to listen as their mothers and family members were all killed. What a tragedy they should never have had to endure.

Currently, there is a pod a bottlenose dolphins trapped in the cove with a second one still trying desperately to get away. I am sending my hopes and thoughts to those innocent animals and I truly hope they get away and do not face the same fate as the pilot whales and the pod trapped already.

 

Thank you for reading.

Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Dolphins, Marine Wildlife, Oceans, Sea Shepherd, Whales | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Japan Dolphin Day 2012

It is hard to believe that another dolphin hunting season is upon us. I feel like the waters in Taiji only recently turned blue after the slaughters of last year’s hunts. So far the boats have gone out twice looking for a pod to herd into the cove and slaughter. They have been unsuccessful in their search both times. So it is a good start to the season for the dolphins. On August 31st, 2012, a group of amazing people gathered in Seattle to protest the start of these hunts. We stood together with our signs to bring awareness to the people of Seattle, but also to the world. Cities from across the globe held demonstrations in front of Japanese Consulates and Embassies to send a message to the Japanese Government. The message was: The World is Watching. We also delivered a photographic journal to the Consulate. It was a In Memory Of photo album filled with photos from the dophin hunts in Taiji. It was created to show them exactly why were standing there and what we had gathered to protest. I hate to think we will be standing there again next year, but I have hope for the future and I have hope for dolphins. These are some pictures from this year’s protest in Seattle. I will be on the front lines in Taiji one day soon. I will be another voice for these animals and I will make sure the world remembered they lived and that they died.

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Thank you for reading!

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Dolphins, Marine Wildlife, Oceans, Sea Shepherd | Leave a comment

Japan Dolphin Day 2012!

It’s hard to believe it, but the 2012-2013 Japan dolphin hunting season is upon us. It feels like the sadness that spun from the traumatic events of last years hunting season hasn’t even gone away. And yet, here we are, facing another season of death and capture in the waters of Taiji.

The start of the hunting season will once again bring together people from all over the globe who want to see Japan end this slaughter.

Events are currently being planned all over the world so be sure and go to one near you and make your voice heard.

Tell Japan to end this for good.

Tell the world that you stand against captivity. You can make difference.

Check out this link to get information on a protest happening near you. Protests will take place on August 31, 2012 in the afternoon.

I truly hope everyone can make time to go out and support dolphins living wild and free in our oceans.

 

And don’t forget to check out my fundraising page for my upcoming trip to Taiji, Japan.

 

Thank you for reading!

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, dam guardians, Dolphins, Marine Wildlife, Oceans, Sea Shepherd, Uncategorized, Whales | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

My Journey Towards Taiji….

Okay guys, it is official. I have decided to go to Taiji, Japan during this year’s dolphin hunting season. I am aiming to go sometime in January 2013, but I need to start fundraising for the trip. I sent in my Cove Guardian application to be a part of Sea Shepherd’s on-going campaign, Infinite Patience. Since my application was accepted I must now start the process of FUNDRAISING!

I am very excited to begin this new journey towards helping the dolphins of Japan even more. In order to stop this annual slaughter of dolphins we must show the world what is happening. People need to see how their tickets to Sea World directly contributes to the deaths of these magnificent creatures.

I have started a fundraising page with the website Go Fund Me. I needed an easy way for friends and family (and hopefully some animal loving strangers) to help support me in this dream.

So check out the donation page HERE. (www.gofundme.com/stopthedolphinslaughter)

Thank you so much for reading and I will continue documenting the steps in this journey right here at World Wide Waves.

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Dolphins, Marine Wildlife, Oceans, Sea Shepherd, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Help the Bonneville Sea Lions

I wanted to give a couple resources on how you can help the sea lions at the Bonneville Dam. Not everyone can travel to the Dam to be a Dam Guardian but there are ways to give your voice to the innocent sea lions.

Call and Email! Contact the governors of Oregon and Washington and urge them to stop this senseless abuse and killing of sea lions.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber:

phone: (503) 378-4582

email: http://governor.oregon.gov/Gov/contact.shtml

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire:

phone: (360) 902-4111

email: http://www.governor.wa.gov/contact/

 

You can also sign the petition to help stop the sea lion killings by clicking here.

 

Thank you for doing your part to help the California sea lions!

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, dam guardians, Marine Wildlife, sea lions, Sea Shepherd | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dam Guardians and the Bonneville Dam

Well, yesterday, May 4, 2012 was my first day as a Dam Guardian for Sea Shepherd. I traveled down to the Bonneville Dam at the Washington/Oregon boarder with my friend Eloisa. We had signed up to be Dam Guardians shortly after learning the government was ordering California Sea Lions be trapped and killed for eating salmon. We got to Portland, Oregon late on Thursday night and slept for a few hours. We got up at 4:30am on Friday and drove to the Washington side of the dam where we met another Dam Guardian, Katie. She had been there before monitoring the activity and was able to give us the lay of the land. As we were standing there watching with our cameras and binoculars, a couple of men in uniforms parked across the river and were watching us. At one point they even waved as Eloisa was looking at them through the binoculars. We were greeted shortly after by a couple more men who had been informed by the woman at the gate that it was our first time there. They wanted to make sure we knew where we could go and what was off limits. They seemed nice enough but clearly we were being watched.

It was cold, cloudy and rainy most of the day. We saw several sea lions playing in the rough waters and rain. We saw two eating fish as they swam by us. Two men stood on the dam looking out over the river. One had binoculars and the other had a gun. Katie told us they shoot off hazing shots and explosives from there when the sea lions get too close. The traps remained empty the whole time we were there which was a good thing of course. Around maybe 10:30am or so the boat that patrols the area drove past. There were 3 men on board and Katie once again told us about them. That boat apparently drives back and forth chasing the sea lions and firing shots at them. It was definitely eerie to hear pops and explosives going off while we were standing in the rain along the shore. At one point as the boat went by the shore where we were standing it fired off a shot. (NOT at all aimed at us) The men seemed amused as we jumped at the unexpected ‘pop’. The sea lions were not near that spot at that moment so it was clear that was just for us to remind us that they do not like our presence there.

All in all it was a quiet day and no sea lions were trapped, branded or killed. So far the government has killed 9 California Sea Lions and sent one poor soul to a life of captivity at an aquarium in Chicago. The sea lions consume 2-4% of the salmon on the Columbia River. Fishermen take 17% of the salmon  and the dam itself claims the lives of 7-16% of the adult fish. Clearly the sea lions are not the reason for the current salmon population problems. They are simply the scapegoat for a group of government entities that do not want to take responsibility for destroying an ecosystem. Humans have driven the salmon into a state of decline with their fishing, habitat destruction, dam construction, and even the introduction of farmed fish and non-native fish.

I am hoping to travel to the dam again this Friday so stay tuned!
Thanks for reading!

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, dam guardians, Marine Wildlife, sea lions, Sea Shepherd | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

More Bad News in Taiji

I was a little shocked this morning when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post from a friend about slaughters at the cove in Taiji. I guess it is Taiji and all but I was still not expecting to read that. On April 28,  off the coast of Taiji, Japan a drive took place involving pilot whales. 20-30 pilot whales were driven into the cove where most were killed. The few whose lives were spared were taken into the dark world of captivity. It is sad that the water ran red in that beautiful town once again. The dolphin drives ended in March, but the harpoon season off shore continued. Several lives have been lost since March but none of the scale that the dolphin hunting season sees.

Photo taken by Sayaka Nakamura

 

The drive hunt season has now come to a formal close, but it will start up again in September.

I am hoping to travel to Taiji, Japan during the 2012-2013 dolphin hunting season so stay tuned for those developments.

Thanks for reading!

~Rachel

Categories: Animal Welfare, Cetaceans, Dolphins, Marine Wildlife, Oceans, Sea Shepherd, Whales | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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