Risso’s in Ruins

The rollercoaster continues here in Taiji… Tuesday morning we awoke to one of my favourite sights here in Taiji- a thunderstorm!

Wednesday was not so pleasant, as we bore witness to yet another slaughter within the killing cove, this time, it was a pod of Risso’s Dolphins that had the fatal bad luck of swimming past Taiji, Japan.

The boats left Taiji Harbour just before sunset, and as we would any other dolphin hunting day in Taiji, we set out to monitor their movements. We headed for one of Taiji’s headlands, we nickname the ‘promontory’. This site was once used as a lookout station for whaling in the area, now it is used to help end the destruction in our oceans.

It was only a few short hours into our wait that we noticed the ‘banger’ boats encircling a pod of dolphins, and begin to drive them toward the town of Taiji. During a drive, the atmosphere tightens around us, and all goes silent except for the odd comment on what we see out on the horizon…

The banger boats kept driving, and neared the headland that we had stationed ourselves on. Then, suddenly, we noticed that the pod of dolphins that the boats were chasing had split, and 8 Risso’s Dolphins darted ahead of the larger pod behind. A few banger boats focused on driving the smaller portion of the pod, whilst the remaining majority of boats continued to try and force the larger pod toward Taiji- hours later, those banger boats would fail in their mission as the dolphins continued to outsmart them- those dolphins swam free…

But for the 8 dolphins that were being chased down by fast paced boats, their fate wouldn’t be so fortunate.

After a tireless fight against the dolphin killers that were relying on the terror ensued from their engines and noise from their ‘banging poles’ to drive the dolphins, the pod became trapped and netted off within the killing cove after hours of struggle. Amongst the pod were two very young dolphins, one was just a newborn and still sported ‘birth rings’ along its’ body.

After their struggle, which stretched out over at least four hours, the pod were herded into the killing cove. This is when we see the ‘real’ reason for the slaughter… In come the dolphin trainers.

Two Risso’s dolphins were taken from the pod while they saw their family members being slaughtered in front of them. They were transferred into sea pens at Taiji Harbour, by trainers who work at Dolphin Resort Hotel in Taiji- a facility that profits by capturing and selling dolphins from the Taiji slaughters. This is the sole reason that these dolphins were herded into the killing cove… not for the four dolphins that the hunters kept to slaughter for meat (which will only fetch them up to about $600 per dolphin), but for the tens of thousands of dollars that the Fisheries Union ‘earns’ for capturing the other two. Herein lies one of the many dire problems surrounding the captive marine mammal industry.

Possibly the most horrible part of the day, was that the dolphin killers deemed the two smallest dolphins not profitable enough to slaughter, so they were dumped out at sea to fend for themselves, without the protection of their pod or food from their mothers… This is no display of compassion, as the dolphin killers have a set quota of dolphins that they have to adhere to, so to them, slaughtering and keeping a calf for meat would be cutting the profits by up to ten times. A Risso’s dolphin calf will be born at about 50kgs, they can reach weights of up to 450-500kgs. There is nothing humane, sustainable or traditional about this practice, it is simply about profit and profit alone.

Since Wednesday’s slaughter, we have had three dolphin hunt-free days here in Taiji, where we all enjoyed a much needed relief from the environmental crimes that ensue from the dolphin hunts. However, the captive facilities become a major focal point on these days, and we monitor these areas in order to expose what goes on ‘behind the closed doors’ of the captive trade. People need to know the truth when it comes to supporting captive dolphin facilities.

On Thursday afternoon, I freedived at the Cove. It is a public beach up until the netted area, so there wasn’t anything that the police could do but watch.

I sat on the bottom of the seafloor amongst the sea cucumbers and mullets zooming around and looked up at the wall of netting surrounding me, under about 4m of water. That thick and heavy net gave me the most horrible feeling- seeing the cove from the dolphins’ point of view was harrowing to say the least. I won’t forget that sight for a long time- it made me feel sick to my stomach but gave me even more of an insight into the terror that these dolphins face whilst being cornered by these walls of death.

Over the past three days since the last slaughter in Taiji, we have continued to observe the dolphin killers leave Taiji Harbour and return with nothing! We’re hoping for many more blue days in the cove to come!

Educate yourself on what’s going on in our oceans and make your voice heard! We will be updating live from the cove most days- and you can keep updated on the official Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians’ Facebook Page, Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian Official Reports, or follow @seashepherd and #tweet4taiji on Twitter!

I just want to thank everyone that has shown their support over the last few weeks- I really appreciate it and it makes being here in Taiji a lot easier!


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  1. It is very hard to change the way something is done when the governing factor is money, especially someones livelihood. I certainly hope sooner rather than later we all win out over this barbaric practice and marine animals can swim free once again. Keep up the good work!!

  2. Dear Nicole & crew, thank u so much for keeping us up to date, must be a nightmare for u guys…
    My love & thoughts are with you every day! I hope WE can STOP this soon!!!

  3. Just want to send my deepest gratitude for all you do to bring attention to the atrocities that are happening in Taiji. I know it isn’t easy to watch and know you can’t interfere . You all are amazing.
    Thank you ,

  4. It’s very upsetting knowing that so called dolphin trainers who “should care ” about the welfare of the dolphins they are taking from the hunt and also then knowing that the family members of the pod are slaughtered for meat . This concept is mind boggling …. How does one have compassion in this job ?

  5. Thank you, Nicole! You are an amazing person! I will continue to share the story of Taji and the captivity trade with everyone I meet.

  6. Thank you for your testimony ! I think of you all every day and feel attached to your wonderful action as cove guardians. Hats off ! I disseminate around me the information about the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji in Japan at each occasion I have ! My very best wishes from France ! ❤ ❤ ❤

  7. Thank you so much for being out there and raising awareness on this issue, it is so upsetting to see humans treat animals the way they do, and all for the sake of providing ‘entertainment’. While dolphins have been the major focus of ending marine mammals in captivity, I would also like to learn more about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ truth of capturing orcas and belugas for ‘public display’ purposes. Best of luck to you and your group there in Taiji!

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