Taiji, Japan, January 26, 2016:
“What the hunters are doing in Taiji violates an ancient friendship cultivated by time, between man and dolphin.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director, Dolphin Project
With so many pods of dolphins migrating in the Kuroshio current, taking them right past Taiji, January is usually a bad month for dolphin drives. And today, we witnessed one of the most gruesome slaughters of the season. By 8:30 a.m., we spotted the drive on the horizon, with black smoke seen from the boats as they terrorized the unsuspecting animals. Based on the amount of splashes, we could see the pod was large.
Once the dolphins were driven near the mouth of the harbour, half the pod broke free, swimming back towards the open sea. Four banger boats continued to drive the first half of the pod towards the killing cove, while four, other boats turned back to try to retrieve the rest of the group. They soon gave up, joining the boats which had control over the dolphins.
Even at half, the pod was large, about 50-60 striped dolphins. Our Live Stream caught the exhausted animals, swimming lethargically past us. They surfaced frequently, catching quick breaths in-between the roar of engines and the chaos of nets being dropped. Suddenly, the pod started panicking. Many were hyperventilating while others threw themselves against the sharp rocks of which the periphery of the killing cove is comprised. Blood started to fill the water, a preview of what was soon to come.
Total pandemonium overtook the cove, with dolphins stuck in nets, dolphins outside of nets, dolphins spyhopping as they looked for the rest of their pod, fishermen chasing dolphins in boats, dolphins being dragged under the killing tarps. And on it went, over two hours of brutality which literally turned the cove to blood. The pigment of the water didn’t even appear real, it was so bright.
I have been here six times now, and have witnessed more drives than I care to even count. This morning, my heart broke all over again, and I was filled with sadness and defeat. That said, the fight in me has only grown stronger. We can end this. We WILL end this.” ~ Dolphin Project Senior Cove Monitor Vicki Kiely
I have never in my four trips to Taiji seen such a bloody drive. I am still at a loss for words and I know this drive will never leave my memory.” ~ Dolphin Project Cove Monitor Ernie Ismail
Based on the deafening sounds of tail slapping, we believe the dolphins were killed in about groups of 15-20 animals. It was horrific to watch. Other dolphins, still alive, swam erratically in the rich, red blood of their dead and dying pod members. We stood there in shock as we continued to film, documenting the atrocities taking place at the cove, for the world to see.
Watching the remaining pod desperately trying to console each other, in the blood red water of their dead family members is a sight that will be ingrained in my heart forever. A truly tragic day.” ~ Dolphin Project Cove Monitor Julie Watson
As skiffs began removing bodies, the heads of the dead animals were clearly seen. Later, at the butcher house, groups of bodies were tethered together by their tails, hauled with no dignity, down to the floor.
I have seen some distressing things in my life, But nothing as sick headed as this. I couldn’t speak.” ~ Dolphin Project Cove Monitor Terry Dark
As the last of the dolphins died, one, single dolphin bobbed in the water. It died before our eyes, and mercilessly, a diver swam out to guide the dead animal under the tarps.
Thank you to Dolphin Project Cove Monitors Vicki Kiely, Julie Watson, Terry Dark and Ernie Esmail for their documentation of this drive. With notes from Vicki Kiely.
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Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the USA (Tax ID 47-1665067), and donations are tax-deductible.
Featured image: Panicked dolphin seeks help from fisherman as it swims in the blood of its pod, Taiji, Japan, Photo credit: Dolphin Project