Taiji, Japan, January 12, 2016
“There are no words to describe the massacre that I have just witnessed. Yesterday, I said the image of part of a pod fleeing to freedom would never leave my mind. Now all I can see is blood and all I can hear are the thrashes of whom we believe belong to the same family.” ~ Maria Nangle, Dolphin Project Cove Monitor
Despite the rain and cloud cover, banger boats left just before 7:00 a.m. to hunt for dolphins. They spread far and wide across the horizon, yet we were hopeful for a blue cove.
By 8:15 a.m., we feared the worst as we saw six boats pursuing a pod. By the time we reached the lookout point, we heard engines revving, and saw black smoke pouring into the air as two more boats joined in the hunt. The dolphins tried so hard to flee, yet the hunters continued to pursue them with precision and speed. By 9:45 a.m., sadly, the dolphins were netted into the cove.
There were so many – a large pod of approximately 45 striped dolphins. Yet despite their obvious exhaustion, they began to panic as the nets were pulled tighter around them. Several of the animals were caught on our Live Stream trying to escape.
In one instance, a dolphin got caught in the nets near the perimeter, and a hunter repeatedly used his foot to push the dolphin’s face away. The dolphin persisted, surfacing once again. This time, the hunter didn’t push it back. Instead, the dolphin was tied by its flukes and dragged off – alive.
Skiffs continued to force the rest of the terrified pod further towards the killing cove, pulling two more nets behind them. The dolphins circled tightly together, thrashing, lying on their sides and spyhopping to attempt to see what was happening. At 9:50 a.m., two more dolphins got stuck in the middle net, and were manhandled by hunters who held them by their rostrums.
Swiftly, the dolphins were maneuvered under the tarps, and by 10:05 a.m., the true depravity of this kill would be documented. The sounds of tail slapping, thrashing and yelling were deafening as one animal after the other lost its life in the hands of the hunters. In-between were sounds of – silence – which were equally as deafening.
Each time we thought it was over, with skiffs beginning to remove the dead bodies, tail slapping and splashing would begin again. This process would repeat itself several times as the remaining pod members waited their turn to be slaughtered, as others were killed in front of them, in full view.
We continued documenting this for the world to see, and at 11:35 a.m., silence finally fell over The Cove as the last, remaining animals were slaughtered. The waters had turned a bright red. The last image we took was that of a diver, searching for dead bodies in a sea of blood.
It was very hard to witness how these dolphins had no energy left to fight, literally floating into The Cove. They are gone now, the whole family. But we are not going to give up. We can’t afford to lose this fight.” ~ Oxana Fedorova, Dolphin Project Cove Monitor
Thank you to Dolphin Project Cove Monitors Maria Nangle and Oxana Fedorova for their documentation of this drive.
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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 dolphins try to escape hunters, Taiji, Japan, Photo credit: Oxana Fedorova / Dolphin Project