Taiji, 1-6-20: A pod of striped dolphins met their fate in the Cove today, in Taiji’s first successful dolphin hunt of the new year. Of those driven into the Cove, no lives were spared.
The hunters left the harbor around 6:40 a.m. Nearly an hour later, they had located the pod. It appeared to be a fairly large pod, as splashes were visible from miles away. The hunting boats seemed to drive in the dolphins with ease; there was hardly any black smoke and little minimal maneuvering. When they neared the harbor, the pod split into two groups. The larger group seemed to be chased out to sea by some of the hunting boats. On the other hand, the remaining group of about 15 dolphins was not so lucky. Several banger boats and skiffs joined ranks to drive the remaining group towards the Cove. They banged on their poles, and threw metal objects into the water to create a wall of sound which forced the dolphins in the direction they desired.
The panicked dolphins were eventually pushed into the Cove, and sealed in with several layers of nets – a foreign environment for a species that tends to stay in deep, oceanic waters far offshore. Wild striped dolphins are often found in tight, cohesive pods, ranging from 20-100 individuals. In their natural habitat, they are capable of diving to at least 2,300 feet and can live to be over 50 years old. Sadly, freedom and the open ocean were now forever taken away from this group of dolphins.
The usual tarps were drawn over the beach of the Cove, in efforts to hide the captive selection process and slaughter. Dolphin trainers worked alongside the hunters to determine which individual dolphins were “desirable” enough to put on display for paying customers of marine parks and dolphinariums. Four of the striped dolphins were ultimately deemed worthy by the trainers, placed into crates aboard the skiffs and taken to the sea pens Moriura bay. Amid the chaos, at least one of the dolphins became entangled in a net.
The remaining dolphins had their lives extinguished. Their bodies were piled into a skiff, covered with a grey tarp and carted to the butcher house in Taiji harbor. One of the dead dolphins was visible under the edge of the tarp.
No mercy was shown for these dolphins today, by the hunters, nor the trainers. Although the purpose of the hunts is publicized as a hunt for dolphin meat, it is unclear exactly where all of the meat goes. The demand for dolphin meat is close to nonexistent on a national scale. Taiji’s dolphins hunts are not Japanese culture; rather, they are part of a business model to sell and exploit live dolphins in an international captivity trade. Exposing this reality to the world, as well as to the people of Japan is vital.
Please continue to share images and footage from these hunts, use the power of social media and word of mouth and move those in your community to action. Together we must continue to keep the spotlight on these hunts and change the tide on how the world sees captivity!