By Ric O’Barry
The situation is getting worse for the captive dolphins trapped in the sea pens in the harbor at Taiji.
Typhoon Talas is about to hit. Leilani Munter, Tim Burns and I drove out in the wind and rain today to see about the status of the pens. The whole Team has been going back and forth, monitoring the situation – some talking to the trainers trying to get them to release the dolphins, but the trainers will have none of us.
These are dolphins that were captured at the Cove for captive purposes, including swim-with-dolphins programs and dolphin-assisted therapy. Driven into the Cove by the banger boats, the dolphin traffickers and Taiji dolphin hunters pick the best “show quality” dolphins to keep in captivity. The rest of the dolphin family is slaughtered for meat. While a dead dolphin on the market for meat may bring in $600 or so, a trained dolphin on the international market may bring in $150,000 or more.
Some of the dolphins are kept in the Taiji Whale Museum or in sea pens in Taiji. These pens are somewhat protected from the onslaught of the wind and waves of a typhoon. But the sea pens at the World Dolphin Resort in Taiji are not protected and are taking a beating from the raging seas. The dolphins – at least a dozen – are subjected to a battering as waves kick them around in the small space, hitting them up against piers and the netting.
I fear they will die. If this were in any other part of the world, the dolphin keepers would release the dolphins so they can have a fighting chance to survive the storm. But it seems the World Dolphin Resort owners and dolphin trainers hold these lives very cheaply.
All of us are anguished about this situation and have even considered cutting the nets ourselves. But if we did that, we would never be able to come back to Japan to campaign for the dolphins. Furthermore, the police are out in force, including around the sea pens.
The storm center is bearing down on us now, and we are hunkered down waiting to see what the new dawn brings.
Our Team here is strong and united. The trains and airports going out of Taiji are closed now, and we don’t know when they will re-open. But we will be safe from storm; it is the dolphins we fear for.