For immediate release: March 1, 2019
TAIJI – Officials have confirmed to Dolphin Project that on March 1, the 2018/19 drive season in Taiji, Japan ended. For six months, dolphins of all ages have been chased, harassed, manhandled, captured and slaughtered. Entire pods have been decimated.
Live dolphins were shipped to resorts, marine parks and aquariums. The meat from slaughtered mammals filled shelves at local grocery stores, despite being loaded with toxins and unfit for human consumption. And, as we’ve seen year after year, dolphin trainers worked alongside dolphin hunters, selecting which would be drafted into show business and which would end up on the butcher’s floor.
Worldwide demand for dolphin entertainment is the reason wild dolphins are caught – all to supply a lucrative display industry. Compared to last year, 135 more dolphins were taken captive, thus, it’s imperative that we continue to keep the pressure on and say NO to the dolphin show!
As of this writing, the industry continues to ignore the extreme cruelty of these extremely violent captures. The industry still refuses to show up in Taiji to do anything about the impact their industry is having on the various species involved. The only time they show up is to support the trafficking in Taiji’s dolphins, it seems.
A total of 797 dolphins from seven species were taken captive and/or slaughtered (see statistics below). This figure does not include the untold numbers that die during the drives themselves. During the extremely stressful drive, as dolphins are being pushed inshore, often the old, the very sick, the young or injured are unable to keep up as the pod is being brutalized; thus, their numbers are never recorded. Taiji’s controversial practice of releasing young calves (so their small bodies won’t be counted against seasonal quotas) almost certainly results in additional deaths.
How the dolphin killing “free-for-all” impacts the population and the gene pool of wild populations is unknown and apparently unimportant to all involved.
The season commenced on September 1 – Japan Dolphins Day, an international day of action and awareness that we have coordinated since 2005. This year over 34 events were organized around the globe; Helene and I were proud to attend protest events at the Japanese Embassies in London and Paris this year. Shortly after, our Cove Monitors withstood two typhoons, choosing to remain in Taiji in order to continue their efforts to document, live stream and keep shining a light on Taiji. Left to bear the brunt of the storms, Typhoon Trami claimed the lives of four captive dolphins: two bottlenose dolphins, one Pacific white-sided dolphin and one spotted dolphin.
Dolphin Project also inspected and obtained exclusive footage of Honey, a solitary dolphin abandoned at Inubosaki Marine Park Aquarium, a shuttered aquarium in the city of Choshi in Chiba prefecture, Japan.
In October, Dolphin Project’s latest team of Mini Cove Monitors returned – 9 year-old Imogen and 12 year-old Aidan to help make a difference for dolphins. Later that month, on October 28, the dolphin hunters of Taiji hit a financial jackpot with the first capture of bottlenose dolphins.
“Three hunters working from a skiff grabbed the rostrums of two dolphins that were huddled together in the Cove. One dolphin broke free. The other didn’t. A hunter took a strong hold of that dolphin’s beak and kept the dolphin’s mouth completely shut. (They must think dolphins breathe through their mouths). Another hunter leaned over and seized the dolphin’s pectoral fin, and then they turned the dolphin upside down and pushed it beneath the surface of the water, drowning the animal.” ~ Helene O’Barry
Unbelievably, Japan’s animal welfare laws end at the water’s edge and marine animals are offered no protection from brutality. As each drive was documented, it was apparent no efforts were being made to spare the dolphins from prolonged suffering. Calves were separated from their mothers, dolphins were injured as they panicked and entangled themselves in nets, dolphins were run over with skiffs, and dolphins were tethered to ropes and dragged under the tarps to their deaths. These scenes of depravity replayed over and over throughout the season.
Taiji’s attempts to spin the dolphin hunts as part of their “tradition” and “culture” is an outright lie. Their practice of releasing orphaned calves is both tragic and violent. On Valentine’s Day, hunters captured a nursery pod of 10 Risso’s dolphins. After slaughtering the adults, four young calves – likely still nursing and dependent on their mothers – were loaded into slings and dumped back at sea.
With only two hunting days left in the season, hunters once again hit payday with the offshore capture of a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins, the first of the season. During the violent capture process, multiple injuries were observed on the dolphins, and of the eight taken captive, at least one dolphin died.
However, amidst all this tragedy, local activism in Japan is strengthening. Throughout the season, several protests took place in Taiji, promoting change from within. During a drive last month, as our Dolphin Project Cove Monitors live streamed, the voices of the activists’ call for compassion echoed throughout the Cove. The Life Investigation Agency (LIA) a Japanese group that focuses on animal advocacy within Japan just announced a lawsuit aimed against Taiji’s dolphin drive hunts, and the unethical treatment and torture of dolphins in this practice. LIA hopes this lawsuit will ultimately bring an end to the hunts and to the suffering of dolphins in Taiji.
Dolphin Project’s team of Cove Monitors was on the ground in Taiji during the entire dolphin hunting season. Utilizing live streaming technology, our brave volunteers documented as pod after pod of dolphins were subjected to horrific abuse, both by the people who claim to love them and those whose livelihoods depend on killing them. While my illegal arrest and deportation from Japan prevented me from being in Taiji this hunting season, Dolphin Project continues our lawsuit so I can one day, join my team at the Cove.
Dolphin Project extends a huge “THANK YOU” to our dedicated Cove Monitors and to those who watched our broadcasts, shared our social media and blogs and clicked on the “Take Action” links to act on behalf of those who have been silenced. We will continue to educate on the horrific realities of dolphin captivity throughout the year, including ongoing educational outreach to school-aged children. As part of our international campaigns, teams are also on the ground in the Solomon Islands and Indonesia, all made possible because of your generous support.
When this level of cruelty is absolute, we must all oppose it absolutely. Documenting and live streaming is imperative. We will never abandon the dolphins of Taiji. As long as Taiji has dolphins, they will have Dolphin Project. Planning is now underway for the 2019/20 season.
Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project
2018/19 Drive Season Statistics
Total number of dolphins slaughtered and/or taken captive: 797
Slaughters: 556 total
Risso’s Dolphins – 142
Bottlenose Dolphins – 15
Melon-Headed Whales – 164
Striped Dolphins – 234
Pacific White-sided Dolphins – 1
Captures: 241 total
Bottlenose Dolphins – 164
Risso’s Dolphins – 26
Rough-toothed Dolphins – 18
Melon-headed Whales – 5
Striped Dolphins – 5
Pantropical Spotted Dolphins – 16
Pacific White-sided Dolphins – 7
Releases: 361 total
Your help has never been more needed in supporting our international campaigns
Featured image: Cynthia Fernandez
Every year from approximately September 1 to March 1, a notoriously cruel hunt of some of the most sentient creatures on the planet takes place in Taiji, Japan, made famous by the Academy award-winning movie ‘The Cove.’ Dolphin Project is the only organization that has been on the ground consecutively since 2003, and the only organization in Taiji during the entire 2018/19 hunting season. Our mission is to expose the atrocities committed against dolphins, utilizing live stream technology, photo and video documentation, blogging and the power of social media. Only with worldwide exposure will Taiji’s egregious practices end. And end they must.