The Banger Boats returning to Harbour after an unsuccessful day of dolphin hunting…
I don’t think I ever have, and ever will feel the emotion of relief as intense as I sometimes do here in Taiji… That is, on non-slaughter days.
This morning we made the trip once again to the harbour and discovered that the boats were out once again… we all saw the perfectly flat seas and clear skies, but no-one said anything about them. We all painfully knew it would be a ‘good hunting day’ for the fishermen.
We drove straight up to the Mountain Pass, to wait for the boats’ return, hoping that there would not be a broken surface in front of the banger boats, made by a pod of dolphins… Today was an anxious wait. But it was by no means uneventful.
Up on the Mountain pass, you have a very clear view out over the Harbour- including the ocean pens in which up to 30 or so dolphins reside… More often than not, the dolphins taken from the killing cove are sent straight to these pens- and wait to be shipped off to a dolphinarium somewhere in the world. Some of these dolphins have been swimming the same circle for months- most were already in those pens before I had arrived to Japan a month and a half ago.
Today, there was a lot of movement around the pens- there were fishermen and trainers everywhere, including divers inside a particular pen. It was difficult to see what was going on, even with binoculars, but mainly due to the big green tarps that were covering their activities down there. Moments later, I spotted movements under the tarp- there were dolphins underneath one of the tarps, which had been loaded onto a skiff… There were three Pacific White Sided dolphins. Some of you following my blogs may remember about a week ago where they had captured a pod of 7 Pacific White Sided dolphins. They were separated into two groups in two different pens in the harbour- one group of three, and one of four.
The skiff’s motor started, and it left the pen from which the dolphins were loaded. We did not know at first where they were taking the dolphins. Normally they would either drive them to the Whale Museum or Dolphin Base… however these dolphins were not in the typically used dolphin slings on either side of the boat- they were placed within. The skiff exited the mouth of the harbour… and continued toward the open ocean. We were perplexed at what we were seeing! The boat continued out until it was out of sight, it went straight out to sea… Merely half an hour later, we saw it round the headland and return to the Harbour- completely empty of any dolphins. We believe that it is very likely that these three dolphins- including a young juvenile, had been released!
We are not entirely sure of the exact reasons of the release- it could very well be due to the discontinued demand for these particular dolphins… They may have had an order cancelled, but we can only speculate at this stage. There is now an empty pen in this holding area, which I’m sure, will soon be filled with more dolphins in the coming weeks for a life of imprisonment. There have been a total of over 150 dolphins taken this season for a life in captivity…
About an hour after the activity at the holding pens, we saw something which never fails to trigger a huge sense of relief and euphoria amongst us all. The boats were on their way back into harbour with nothing to show for their morning of hunting!
We watched as the last of the twelve boats tied up their vessel… it was a good day for the dolphins off the coast of Japan.
However, with days like these, you cannot help but wonder if there will be a continued decrease in catch numbers from Taiji- due to their decline in numbers. I have seen over the time I have been here witnessing these slaughters that the fishermen are determined to kill or capture every dolphin that they can. Especially with big pods- they will force every single one of those dolphins into the cove; calves, pregnant females, juveniles… there is very little consideration of sustaining a genetic diversity in the area for these dolphins by releasing some of the pod. They are potentially running themselves out of business by slaughtering calves, juveniles and pregnant females. At the rate that they are going- there will be no dolphins left.
That is why it is imperative for this slaughter to end. Not just because of the inhumane way these animals are being killed. This is an example of an ecosystem in crisis- the slaughter could bring about a potentially catastrophic environmental issue… At the end of the day, if there are no dolphins left in Japanese waters- there is obviously no way in which this culture can continue… If the unsustainable slaughter of dolphins is stopped before there are no dolphins left, the Japanese will have ended this aspect of their ‘culture’ but there will still be dolphins in our oceans… If they continue, there will soon be no culture of killing dolphins, as there will be no dolphins left.
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On the path to protect,