Dolphins, Taiji, and The Cove

“Culture is created by people – people living in that era.”

-Izumi Ishii, an ex-dolphin hunter


Striped Dolphins

Every year in Taiji, Japan a group of fishermen meet at the shallow bay in their small village. They meet at this bay nearly everyday from September until March. They meet so they can get into their boats to go out into the ocean and hunt for dolphins. On the days when they are successful and find a pod of these beautiful animals, they will surround them and push them towards the waters of Taiji. The fishermen then drop their nets and trap the dolphins within this cove. Once trapped, the dolphins have no chance. Their fate is sealed as the last net is put into place. They will either die a violent and painful death at the hands of these fishermen, or they will be pulled aside by dolphin trainers who consider them a good specimen for captivity. Those that live will listen and watch as their entire family is killed. Then they will be taken and sold into a life of captivity. The blood of the dolphins that are slaughtered will turn the waters in the cove red. The blue waters disappear and only red water and dead dolphins remain.  

Blood red waters in the Cove

 In 2009, the amazing and award-winning documentary The Cove was released. Earth Island Institutes’ Ric O’Barry and the Oceanic Preservation Society teamed up to film exactly what happens in the small village of Taiji, Japan. They were able to get footage using special equipment and they are the reason the world now knows about the terrible slaughters that take place there 6 months out of the year. It is because of this movie that the small bay in Taiji is referred to as “the cove”. The 26-28 fishermen that are involved in the dolphin drives and slaughters have said that they kill the animals as a form of “pest control” and that there is a demand for dolphin meat within Japan. The truth is that most people in Japan do not eat dolphin and would not even consider doing so. There was proof shown in The Cove of companies mis-labling dolphin meat as whale meat. The meat is toxic due to the incredibly high levels of mercury and it is unsafe for human consumption.

Ric O'Barry with toxic dolphin meat being sold in supermarkets

The fishermen and the other individuals who are profiting off of the dolphin slaughters of Taiji may say they hunt for meat and to eliminate their competition within the fisheries industry, but the real reason behind it all is simple. Captivity. The fishermen will make a mere few hundred dollars for every dead dolphin dragged to the butcher house. But the sale of a live soon-to-be show dolphin will bring a price of up to $250,000. These numbers as well as seeing dolphin trainers in the water picking which dolphins will be kept alive for captivity and which will be taken around to a hidden area and slaughtered, shows the true motives behind this annual tragedy.

Every year since The Cove was released there have been volunteers and activists protesting in Taiji during the dolphin drives. They photograph, videotape, and witness the acts that occur there on a daily basis. Their presence gives a voice to the voiceless and ensures that the fishermen know that the world is watching them.

This is a tragedy that can be stopped. Its one village, one small bay, and a whole lot of killing. We can open the world’s eyes up to this and bring it to an end. These sentient, intelligent beings will one day swim without fear of being herded into a small inlet of water where they will take their last breaths of air before they are slaughtered and dragged to a butcher house. We will not stop until the red waters of the Cove disappear forever.

The Cove

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