The past few days in Taiji have been a mixture of both emotions and experiences… I don’t think that there has ever been two days I’ve had in Taiji that were even remotely similar.
Yesterday marked the sixth day in a row that dolphins were not slaughtered- this due to both weather and the hunters’ inability to locate a migrating pod of dolphins out on the horizon. Yesterday, the sea at the cove, the harbour and as far out to the horizon as the naked eye would allow was absolutely tempestuous. I had never seen waves so large and powerful so close to the shoreline of Taiji- there were waves that could even rival some of the best surfing beaches back home in Australia… However- as we’ve learnt to expect here in Taiji, things change so quickly and so immensely all the time. We left our hotel this morning and were greeted by the clear skies of dawn, you could see countless stars still in the dark blue sky, as we left to check the dolphin hunters of Taiji.
As we expected (after what must have been a frustrating 6 days for the dolphin fishermen), all twelve ‘banger boats’ were prepared to leave Taiji Harbour… It was only within forty five minutes of their departure that they had started to drive a pod of 9 Risso’s Dolphins back toward the coastline!
Sometimes, a pod will fight hard against the ‘wall of sound’ that encases the dolphin pod during the hunt… today, like many days before, the dolphins are either too terrified or too exhausted to keep fighting- and they were slowly were forced into Taiji’s killing cove… never to return to the sea. Three were taken to captivity (two to the Taiji Whale Museum, one to the Dolphin Base) and will now spend a life of being traded, bought, sold, moved, stressed and frightened all for human enjoyment and so that a few people can make some money… the rest of the pod (including juveniles) were slaughtered. The trainers that selected the three dolphins to be ‘spared’ were well within the killing cove of Taiji during the slaughter… Five dolphin trainers and the owner/manager of Dolphin Base were inside the killing cove and witnessed the slaughter.
The trainers insist that they ‘love dolphins’, just in a different way… All I can think when I hear this is that they love the money the dolphins bring them- that is all they see. During the last Risso’s slaughter, the trainers came in to the killing cove in order to pick some for captivity- however none met their ‘appearance standard’ so they were all slaughtered, including a few babies… This is absolutely not love.
Early this morning the Risso Dolphins swam freely, carelessly, playfully and innocently along the waves of the dying storm, this afternoon- they were being packaged up to be sold for a pittance on the shelves of stores in Taiji and few neighbouring towns. As a few Cove Guardians have said a number of times in the last week, and something that really struck a chord with me was that we (the very few people in black somewhat obscured from view, way up on a mountain overlooking the killing cove) would be the last people, ever, to see these dolphins alive who actually ‘cared’ about them…
Other than today’s devastating slaughter, there have been many other factors and happenings here in Taiji… Firstly, something that really damaged my soul, that’s probably the closest I could come to describing it. That moment was seeing Manta Rays being cut up, whilst they were still alive. Back home in Australia, it is part of my job as a marine wildlife tour guide on the Great Barrier Reef to educate others on the wonder, mystery, intelligence, importance and beauty of these and many other creatures… At ‘home’ on the island, to see a Manta Ray on a scuba dive is something that people travel the world in order to do- and when you’re underwater with these incredible creatures, something about you will never be the same. You develop a love and understanding of their grace and majesty… To have unexpectedly seen around half a dozen of these animals being cut up before my eyes- I don’t think words can describe how I felt! Those of you who have seen a Manta in the wild and watch the footage below may understand. When talking to locals about the animal, they laugh and say ‘it is just a fish!’
Boy, does humankind all over the world have a lot to learn…
Something that needs to be said is that this was not done by the ‘dolphin fishermen’ but the ‘fish fishermen’ of Taiji- but really, what’s the difference? At the end of the day, they should not be labelled ‘dolphin hunters’, ‘fishermen’ etc etc because we all know what they REALLY are… humans. Mankind have an uncanny knack of pointing the finger at others to hide the fact that they themselves (or their nation, culture or government) are most likely involved in very similar circumstances. I know that is exactly why I will not ‘point the finger’ at the men of Taiji for hunting and brutally killing these Manta Rays. Because this happens all over the world- and in many cases, on a much, much larger scale… So the message must be given that we need to be always thinking about what is happening in our own ‘backyards’, as well as in other countries..
I’ve added an incredibly inspiring Youtube Video that I recently watched, and cannot recommend it highly enough!!
I am here in Taiji to spread the word and keep the international pressure on the issue of unsustainable dolphin hunting both in Japan and worldwide- but other than having an immense passion to save marine life, I am here acting as an ambassador for young people who also want to stand up and make a difference. I am here to physically show kids and younger generations that you can stand up for what you believe in at any age. I will continue my fight for marine conservation after I leave Japan, I will continue to focus on issues affecting my home country, as well as the whole of ‘Planet Ocean’ by standing up at next year’s UN meeting for my In Our Hands project… The importance and power of knowledge (especially when it comes to the generations of tomorrow) will be the key to unlocking a world where humans still exist, among the animals and plants that we see on Earth every day…
Today, I met four young Japanese university students from Osaka, who are keen to find out more about the issue of dolphin hunting here in Taiji- we ran into them at the cove after a slaughter, and through my broken Japanese and their better English, we discussed what is happening here… They informed me that they really admire dolphins, have and will never eat dolphin but are curious to know more about the ‘tradition’. They agreed with me that powered boats, GPS, radio and other technological systems now utilised during the hunt is far from the tradition that the hunters and officials claim it to be- they commented that the hunters should be using true traditional methods to be able to use that ‘excuse’ for the hunts… These students will now be joining us Cove Guardians tomorrow morning, as we show them around Taiji and discuss with them the hunt and the situation here. Let’s hope that we don’t in fact witness a drive, however…
One more encounter I have to mention is the experience I’ve had getting to know and discuss the same issues with infamous mixed martial arts fighter, Enson Inoue. His incredible insight and admirable approach to the situation, I’m sure, will bring about many positive results here for the dolphins… This morning he witnessed the hunt, but also realised that Taiji and the issues here have really hit his heart, and he will be back in Taiji after dropping other commitments, to continue his work to protect the dolphins along the coastlines… I look forward to continuing many discussions and working with Enson in the near future, as he is an amazing man with a great spirit!
For those of you who want to help us make a difference and have a hand at stopping the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, click here! Also- to help me in my mission to give a voice to the youth of the world, read all about my ‘In Our Hands’ project and PLEASE get involved!
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Thanks again for all the support guys!
On the path to protect,