My morning alarm goes off at exactly 4:15am every morning here in Taiji since The Cove Guardians hit the streets before dawn (with our police shadows always in tow). This morning we watched the banger boats leave the harbor as they do every morning. Killers try to shield their faces from our cameras and start the engines on the boats that will bully, intimidate, terrorize and ultimately drive a gentle pod of dolphins and whales to their bloody death. This morning before dawn the blood thirsty killers wasted no time hunting down innocent marine life. With currently 16 Cove Guardians on the ground in Taiji we are the eyes and ears of this greedy town.We are, if I do say so myself, a force to be reckoned with – we are pretty much everywhere in this town. We always wear our Sea Shepherd gear so that the locals know who we are and why we are here. There is little to nothing that happens here without us knowing about it. On this morning, our hearts sank when less than an hour after the boats left the harbor to hunt for dolphins we saw the boats in formation. Our guess is a tip-off from local fisherman probably helped the killers identify where a pod was feeding and swimming. We knew being in a formation meant they had come across a family and were beginning to drive them into the killing cove. We heard the banging of the boats and saw the black smoke coming from the boats and readied ourselves for another slaughter. The drive happened very quickly as the boats roared and cornered the desperate pod who were spy hopping and panicked, moving together as one. We immediately spotted very young offspring swimming close to their mother and then were horrified to see a newborn calf. Mother and baby were glued together during the stress of the drive. They remained connected for as long as they could hold on as one family, one unit, one entity until their violent end.
We soon realized the pod was a family of 25 Risso dolphins These dolphins typically travel in groups of 10–51, but that may reach 400. Smaller, stable subgroups exist within larger groups. They also travel with other cetaceans.The oldest specimen reached 34.5 years Risso’s dolphins are protected in the United States under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1992. The only country known to actively hunt Risso’s dolphin is Japan.
It’s often reported that dolphin trainers and killers act as separate entities here in Taiji but our cameras tell a much different story. Female and male trainers shared a boat from the Fisherman’s Union to the scene of the murder today – hand in hand one could say – both parties motivated by greed and a hunt for a blessed buck. We live streamed the loud, chaotic scene of pod members swimming close to their family panicked and jumping, swimming in circles with some getting tangled up in nets trying to escape. Killers in wetsuits then swam to them and manhandled them violently pushing them closer into the killing cove. All the while the killers laughed and joked, barking orders at each other and celebrating their captures. Thrashing and fighting for life these gentle sea creatures battled for their freedom in vain. The killers brutally push the dolphins from larger to smaller nets. The pod is always frantic and jumping, pushing through nets trying to escape with their babies and family. The driving into the Cove, under the tarps is unbelievably violent and terrifying. It seems to last forever, this battle to drag the dolphins under. As family members are being killed, the others are swimming in their blood. The mothers are trying to get away and shield their babies. It’s literally like nothing anyone has witnessed before – live streaming is so difficult because we, as Cove Guardians, have to articulate what is simply unspeakable.
Finally as the Cove turned red, and all dolphins were all dragged under tarps and stabbed to death, we were sickened to see two newborn calfs and two other very young dolphins, now orphaned, thrown on a boat and held under a blue tarp. Under the tarp we saw them shake and struggle. The killers heavy hands over their tiny bodies, holding them under blue tarps so that our cameras wouldn’t be able to photograph them. We never left them, our team followed the boats and filmed the tiny babies being dumped out to sea – their small bodies not worth the quota for the killers – where they would die soon from predators or starvation without their mothers to protect and care for them. One never resurfaced, we assume this was the tiniest baby who probably died on the way out to sea. We followed and documented the trucks that carried the bodies of the remaining 18 dolphins who were dragged by tethered flukes to the butcher house where their mercury filled flesh would be sold to the highest bidders.
These dolphins and whales swim freely in the ocean. They are not, as Japan would have you believe, property of Japan. They are FREE. When these killers go out to sea they are kidnapping and enslaving and murdering marine life. This is criminal behavior by any karmic or natural law. Why it isn’t criminal in the law books here in Japan is because of pure greed. The captive dolphin industry is very lucrative. These blood baths will continue so long as people continue to buy tickets to marine parks, aquariums, zoos and swim with dolphin programs. The meat of a dolphin or whale is laced with mercury contents so high it is in reality a public service that we, the Cove Guardian are providing to tell Japan and the rest of the world how unhealthy this meat is. The blood that turns the Cove red is our heartbreak. It fuels us to soldier on in the face of such cruelty. Each kill is different and each one it seems more barbaric than the next. We livestream every kill and make sure that not one moment of the dolphin’s ordeal isn’t hidden from public view. We will continue to use our voices and our cameras to let the world know about Japan’s shame. We will never abandon these dolphins and whales and we will continue to speak out for them, now and for as long as it takes…until every cage is empty.