No more captive dolphins or whales for the Vancouver Aquarium

Yesterday the Vancouver Aquarium announced that it is giving up its fight to keep dolphins and whales in captivity. Canada is now only one marine park away from being free of captive dolphins and whales! And it’s because of thousands of voices like ours, who spoke up on behalf of those who are unable to! Now only Marineland Canada in Ontario has captive dolphins and whales.

In May 2017, the Vancouver Park Board, voted to prevent the aquarium from bringing in any new whales and dolphins, after commissioners said they were concerned about the ethics of keeping the animals in captivity. At this time there were only 3 cetaceans left at the facility: Helen (a pacific white sided dolphin), Chester (a false killer whale) and Daisy (a harbour porpoise). Helen, Chester and Daisy were allowed to remain at the facility but were no longer a part of the shows.

Since the park board vote in 2017, two of the aquarium’s three remaining cetaceans have died, Chester and Daisy, leaving only Helen, the pacific white sided dolphin.

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Helen, a pacific white sided dolphin, the only remaining captive cetacean at the Vancouver Aquarium

Helen was purchased from Enoshima Aquarium in Japan, a facility known for sourcing it’s captive cetaceans from the infamous Dolphin Drive hunt in Taiji. Helen’s fate has yet to be decided. According to CEO John Nightingale there are two available options: transporting her to a new facility or bringing in a companion animal, which means defying the park board. Neither of these choices are ideal.

 

#WhaleWednesday – Corky the Orca

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Corky, a female orca, is the longest held captive orca in history. On December 11 of this year it will be 48 years since she was forcibly removed from her family and the ocean environment and then taken to the harsh reality of a life imprisoned in a concrete tank. When Corky was captured in 1969 at the age of approximately 4 years very little was known about orcas. Not even the fact that they form closely bonded family groups within which member remain for their entire lives.

Corky’s family in the wild is known at the A5 pod (northern resident population) of British Columbia, Canada and she still has close and distant relatives living free who she knew as young orca, as well as siblings she has never known. Her mom, A23 known as Stripe, died in 2000 at 53 years of age. Corky had a brother A27 Okisollo also deceased, her living family currently consists of a younger sister, A43 Ripple, a niece A69 Midsummer and a young brother A60 Fife, all of whom she has never met.

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A60 Fife – Corky’s Brother – ©Rob Lott/WDC

Corky was captured on December 11, 1969, on that evening her pod chose to enter Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast of north of Vancouver, British Columbia. Word had reached a group of local fisherman that there was a group of whales nearby and they were aware that the whales meant a big pay day (since there was a capture the previous year in the same area). The fisherman located the whales, encircled part of the pod with fishing nets and battled to keep the nets in place and afloat overnight. The following morning, half of Corky’s pod was trapped inside the net, with remaining pod still on the outside, who were then surrounded as well. Six whales from Corky’s pod were selected by buyers and the remaining six were released but did not immediately leave the area. This would be the first time Corky was separated from her mom and the last time she would see her.

After being selected for captivity Corky was moved into shallow waters, where divers got into the water and positioned a sling around her body, with  holes for her pectoral fins. A crane then slowly lifted Corky’s sling out of the water and hoisted her into a truck. Removed from the weightless experience of the ocean, Corky’s own weight would have been crushing down on her. She made the long journey from British Columbia by truck, plane, and another truck before her final lift into a circular tank at Marineland of the Pacific, near Los Angeles, California.

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Corky at Marineland of the Pacific

The moment Corky’s freed was stolen her world was suddenly and drastically changed. Now, movement was restricted by never changing dimensions; concrete walls replaced the cliffs, rocks, caves and kelp forests of the vast and limitless ocean. There was no longer anywhere for her to explore and her choices were limited. Gone now were the familiar sounds of the sea; instead, there was the constant drone of filtration systems, and anytime one of the whales in the tank called, their sounds reverberated off the barren walls. There would be no more waves, no currents, no fish to chase and hunt, no dolphins or porpoises to play with – Corky’s entire life was forever changed.

The sameness was relieved marginally by the companionship of 4 other member of Corky’s family, 2 were captured with her and 2 the year before. Unfortunately that soon ended, after 1 year Corky I died and Corky was given her name, and Patches dies in 1971. A male orca who was never named died in 1972 and from then on Corky and a male cousin named Orky, who was captured in 1968, were by themselves. Corky is now the sole survivor of all the orcas captured from the northern resident community of British Columbia orcas.

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Corky & Orky 1985 Marineland of the Pacific

Around the age of 11, Corky began to sexually mature and on February 28, 1977 she delivered her first calf, a male. This was the first live orca to be born in captivity. Orky (Corky’s cousin) & also the father of all her calves, helped the calf to the surface after a difficult birth. The situation grew tense when the calf failed to nurse and the staff of Marineland had to intervene and force feed the calf several times a day. Despite these efforts, the calf lost weight and eventually died of pneumonia, after living for just 16 days. Corky was pregnant a total of 7 times and the longest any of her calves live was 46 days. All of Corky’s calves failed to nurse properly, even though Marineland staff made a dummy calf in an attempt to teach Corky to position herself appropriately. In the wild Corky would have been taught this fro her mother and other females pod members. Corky gave birth to one stillborn calf and her last pregnancy ended when an aborted fetus was found at the bottom of her tank. Finally at the age of 21, Corky stopped ovulating. In the wild, Corky would probably have had several calves and most likely be a grandmother by now.  A female orca in the wild will typically have 25 productive years during which she may give birth to 4-6 offspring.

In December, 1986, 17 years after Corky’s arrival, Marineland and its surrounding lands were purchased by Sea World’s corporate owner, the U.S. publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, for a rumoured $23 million. Corky was then transferred to Sea World in San Diego where she became Sea World’s main performer, “Shamu”.

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Corky at Sea World San Diego

Shamu is the SeaWorld trade name for its orcas. The name has been passed from performer to performer. Corky’s physical condition has fluctuated over the years. At one point, Sea World listed her condition as “poor”, perhaps because her kidneys were not functioning well. Her lower teeth are worn and she is almost blind in one eye. Sea World considers Corky as an “old” animal and tells visitors that orcas only live to about 35 years. They used to say 30 years. For a while, Sea World even decreased the number of shows Corky did, but now she is back doing a full schedule. When she is not performing, Corky is held in one of the back pools with the other orcas. She spends most of her time simply circling her tank.

During her time in captivity, Corky has experienced some social difficulties, most notably with an Icelandic orca named Kandu V who appeared to be jealous of Corky. Over the years, there had been a lot of tension between the two females. Then, in August 1989, just as their public show was beginning, Kandu rushed out from the back pool and charged at Corky. In the attack, Kandu fractured her jaw, a bone fragment severed an artery and she bled to death. No one had ever seen or heard of an orca attacking another orca before. Kandu’s daughter, Orkid, was just one year old at the time and, in an odd twist of fate, Corky became her surrogate mother.

Back in the wild, Corky’s family carries on. The A5 pod originally had 18 members but the 7 who were removed in the 1968 capture all died and one entire matriline was lost. Of the six taken in 1969 only Corky survives. Slowly over the years, as their fortunes waxed and waned, the complexion of the wild pod has changed. Despite the losses, the pod appears strong, and its members still love to hunt big Spring salmon when they travel the waters of Johnstone Strait, Blackfish Sound and the rest of the Inside Passage. But they have never been seen near Pender Harbour again.

It seems that orcas, like elephants, have lon  g memories. Corky still remembers her family. She visibly shook and vocalized poignantly when a tape recording of her family’s calls were played to her in 1993. Corky still ‘speaks’ the same dialect as her family,

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The time left for Corky to reconnect with her family is disappearing. She has already survived longer than any other captive orca. This tells us that Corky is an incredibly strong individual… but no one, no matter how strong, can last forever.

Free Corky: (Via OrcaLab) “The campaign to free Corky originally aimed at returning her to a full life with her family in the wild. In recent years, acknowledging the difficulties involved in accomplishing this (“owner” intransigence, Corky’s age and condition) we have modified our goal by proposing that Corky be “retired” to a facility in the ocean, where she would feel the ocean around her, and be able to reconnect with her family and community. Corky would hear familiar voices from long ago, and have opportunities to interact with her kin. We can’t know precisely what would happen following her return, as this would be determined by Corky and the other orcas. She would continue to receive human care, including from Sea World staff who know her well. There are many compelling reasons for doing this. In fairness, we owe it to Corky, and to her family to make the attempt to reunite them. Corky’s return to the ocean will also give us an opportunity to learn details about orca society that we will never know otherwise. But beyond these humanitarian and scientific reasons, Corky’s story and the complex project needed to bring it to a successful conclusion has the potential for focusing public attention on a wide range of critical ocean issues besides captivity… the health of vital habitats, fisheries and food supply, impacts of human activity and industry, even global warming.”

 

2017/2018 Taiji Drive Hunt Quota

Only 3 weeks until 2017/2018 Taiji Drive Hunt & Slaughter resumes again. 

2017/2018 Drive Hunt Quota by species:

2017/2018 quota for the drive fishery in Taiji has been released.  This quota allows for a take of 1,940 animals from nine species and has added two species to the list – rough-toothed dolphins & melon-headed whales.

In addition to drive hunt, rough tooths and melon headed have been added to the hand harpoon quota in two prefectures – Wakayama and Okinawa. In Wakayama, 30 melon-headed whales can be taken, while in Okinawa, 13 rough-tooths and 60 melon-headed are allowed via this method. 

Including both hand-harpoon and drive hunting, a total of 33 rough-tooths and 190 melon-headed whales have been added to the overall small cetacean quota in Japan.

source: http://ika-net.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2017/08/post-f1fb.html

Racing Extinction – Southern Resident Killer Whale Population

When it comes to the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) a year has made all the difference in the world. Last year at this time, we were all celebrating a remarkable baby boom, with 8 new orca calves over the previous 12 months & another new baby was added in January 2016, for a total of 9.

However, if 2015 was considered the baby boom year, then 2016 was the exact opposite with a total of 6 orca deaths recorded during the calendar year. Then the announcement on January 2, 2017 of J2 Granny’s presumed death  as of December 31, 2016. J2 Granny was last seen by the Center for Whale Research on October 12, 2016.

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J2 Granny

In 2016 we saw the loss of L95, J55, J14, J28, J54, & J34

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L95 Nigel

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J14 Samish – left with daughters J37 & J40

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J28 Polaris and then her baby son J54 Dipper.

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J34 Doublestuf with mom J22

“The SRKW population is now estimated to be 78 as of 31 December 2016, and J pod contains only 24 individuals plus the wandering L87. To whom will he attach now? Who will lead the pod into the future? Is there a future without food? What will the human leaders do?” Ken Balcomb – Center for Whale Research

We are now racing the extinction of the SRKW’s – What it is going to take…

  • Heightened awareness and continued education
  • Sustainable fisheries and healthy wild Pacific Salmon stocks
  • Continued research into understanding where the whales go in the winter & what they do
  • Improved technologies for boating
  • Continued education for younger generations-the next group of Salish Sea ambassadors!!
  • Ongoing efforts to foster & promote ethical boating etiquette amongst all user groups: fishing – both private and commercial, kayaking, sailing, seaplanes, cruise ships, freighters, ferries, etc.

What can you DO to help:

  • Let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau know what his approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion means for the endangered SRKW’s – say no to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and say yes to saving Orca’s
  • Please visit the David Suzuki Foundation – find your MP and send a message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Catherine McKenna (Minister of Environment and Climate Change) & Jim Carr (Minister of Natural Resources)

Eat Sustainable

Become a Member of the Center for Whale Research – follow them on Facebook & Twitter

Adopt a Whale – check out The Whale Museum for more information

Follow Dam Sense on Facebook and check out their website damsense.org

Tweet to help save the SRKW’s and tear down those dams

Read the following articles to learn more:

The Orcas are Starving by David Niewert Breach dams, or its game over for salmon by Jim Waddell

No Fish No Blackfish – RIP J28 Polaris

RIP J28 Polaris

Her loss is made even more tragic by the additional loss of her most recent calf J54. At less than a year old and still nursing, his survival is unlikely without his mother to feed him. He was last seen on October 23 and is now presumed deceased. This brings the year’s losses up to 4 (L95, J14, J28 and J54) and the population back down to 80.

More then ever, we need to look toward more fish as the primary solution in saving the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale Population.

It is fairly simple … No Fish No Blackfish

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What can you DO to help:

Get Involved – volunteer for a shoreline cleanup in your area – tell organization why support or why you do not – write to your local government representative (send letters and emails)

Sign petitions:

Eat Sustainable

Become a Member of the Center for Whale Research – follow them on Facebook & Twitter

Adopt a Whale – check out The Whale Museum for more information

Follow Dam Sense on Facebook and check out their website damsense.org

Tweet to help save the SRKW’s

Read the following articles to learn more:

 

The Real Sea World – Victoria, BC

This past August was the first time I had the opportunity to see Orca’s in the wild and I have to say there is no other experience quite like it! It truly was an exhilarating, left me with the best natural high and a permanent smile for days!

I’ll be honest I have been to Sea World – a few times as a child and young adult. If documentaries like Blackfish and the Cove had been available back then I would never had made those trips. I do not regret those experiences, although I do wish there had been someone to say to me or teach me from a young age that these highly intelligent mammals do not belong in a concrete tank swimming in circles day in and day out, performing tricks in order to be fed. While I was growing up there was no such thing as social media – there was no Facebook, twitter or Instagram – what was a blog – if you wanted to write down your thoughts you did it in a journal that no one ever read. I owned my first computer at 18 and that was when I signed up for my first email address.  Now it is important to use every possible outlet available to educate today’s youth about the captive marine mammal industry. The end of Sea World, Marineland Canada and other such marine parks, will only end when the demand for it ends. If we teach the youth of today that it is wrong to keep Orcas, dolphins and whales, etc in tanks then hopefully the demand for it will slowly dissipate and we will one day see the tanks of Sea World and Marineland Canada emptied.

Now (with the help of social media) I have the ability to enlighten others about the captive industry, while also making them aware that there are better options available to view these marine mammals in the wild and on their own terms. I’ve had the opportunity to experience Orca’s in the wild – I’m pretty sure my next trip will be to experience dolphins in the wild. My only experience with wild dolphins to date was during my time in Taiji as a Cove Guardian, so seeing wild dolphins is definitely at the top of my bucket list!

Here are a few videos from my experience with Transient Orca’s off the coast of Victoria, BC this past summer. While these videos only offer you a short glimpse into my experience of whale watching hopefully they will inspire you to experience Orca’s in the wild for yourself.

Transient Orca’s in Puget Sound August 19, 2015

Transient Orca’s (T010’s) August 21, 2015

Transient Orca’s in Puget Sound Summer 2015

Whale Watching in British Columbia is one of the best places in the world to view orcas, humpback whales, gray whales and other marine species. The city of Victoria and in particular the southern tip of Vancouver Island is renowned for orca sightings and is the ultimate destination for BC whale watching. Victoria is at the centre of the world’s highest concentration of killer whales. It’s perfectly situated in the middle of the southern resident killer whales’ seasonal feeding ground.

I spent a lot of time researching whale watching and looked at several different whale watching tour companies in Victoria. I finally decided to book with Eagle Wing Tours. Eagle Wing Tours is Victoria’s first award winning whale watching company and is the #1 ranked whale watching company in Victoria on TripAdvisor.

I was unsure of what to expect for my first whale watching tour, but all I knew was that it would be amazing to see wild orcas, even better to see them spyhopping, breaching and if I got to see a baby orca too then that would just be fantastic! Well turns out my first experience would not disappoint and I managed to see all of this in one trip!

 

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If you ever have the opportunity to experience Orca’s in the wild – just do it! It is by far one of the most exhilarating experiences!

Japans Latest Tactics to Attempt to Hide the Bloodshed at The Cove

news-150827-1-1-CG-Karen-Hagen-900wSea Shepherd veteran crew member Karen Hagen of Norway has been denied entry into Japan to document the brutal capture and slaughter of dolphins and small whales in Taiji as Ground Leader of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Henkaku campaign, previously referred to as Operation Infinite Patience. On August 27, Hagen was detained by Japanese Immigration upon arrival in Fukuoka, Japan by ferry from Busan, South Korea. After being interrogated for nearly two hours and held for more than six hours, she was refused entry into the country and deported to South Korea. Hagen’s passport was taken and she was refused a phone call unless she identified the person she was calling and made the call on speaker phone in the presence of a Japanese translator. Initially, Immigration officials stated that entry was being denied because Hagen had a tourist visa and was not in the country for tourism. Upon being asked why taking photos did not qualify as tourism, officials changed their reason, stating that she did not have a return flight home. When Hagen showed her return ferry ticket, they then stated that last year she wrote that she would be staying in Japan for two weeks but stayed for two and a half months. She then pointed out that she had extended her stay, which is legal, and at that time no further reasons were given as to why she was being denied.

 

news-150830-1-1-Linda-Trapp-CG-900wOn August 30, Sea Shepherd veteran crew member Linda Trapp of the USA has been denied entry into Japan. Trapp was detained by Japanese Immigration upon arrival in Osaka, Japan. After being interrogated for nearly five hours, she was refused entry into the country. Japanese Immigration officials said the reason she was denied entry is that her activities are not consistent with those that fall under Japan’s “tourism clause.” Trapp, 56, is a two-year veteran Sea Shepherd crew member and a respected retired homicide detective with the Washington County Sheriff Department in Oregon, USA.

 

 

11109_10204415713726877_4776487435405937573_nThis is not the first time a Sea Shepherd volunteer has been refused entry to Japan; several returning Cove Guardians were detained and sent home upon their arrival to the country last season. In December 2014, then Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader Melissa Sehgal was interrogated for nearly nine hours and detained for 24 hours before being escorted onto a flight out of Japan. No reason has been given for the denials, but Japan has claimed that the volunteers arriving with tourist visas are not tourists. This pattern of entry denials is not unexpected, as Japan will go to great lengths to try and hide the bloodshed suffered by dolphins in the cove from the world. Furthermore, the denials are evidence that Japan knows Sea Shepherd has been effective in exposing these atrocities to the world.

 

 

 

FullSizeRenderOn August 31, Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project and subject of the documentary The Cove, was arrested in the town of Nachikatsuura, a town located in Wakayama Prefecture. O’Barry was arrested on suspicion of a violation of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act of Japan and was reportedly accused of being unable to produce a passport. Under Japanese law, any tourist in Japan is required to carry a passport with them at all times. After spending the night in jail O’Barry was released with all charges dropped, as several hours after impounding his vehicle, local police located his passport inside the car. O’Barry believes that the combination of elevated pressure on Taiji, and Japan’s, “extreme, right-wing, radical government,” is currently placing Westerners at risk. “They’re trying to get all Westerners,” he said, “and the orders are coming from higher up — not the local police. We have always had a good relationship with them.”

 

The 2015/2016 Dolphin drive hunt and slaughter officially began on September 1 and thanks to heavy rain and winds we have experiences two Blue Cove Days so far this season!

The Real SeaWorld: Baby J50 Makes a Splash #Blackfish

The Southern Resident Orca pod is making a comeback after almost three years without a successful birth, There has been a bit of a boom with four calves born since December 2014. The Orca calves, known as J50, J51, J52 and L121 can been seen frequently.

On July 4, whale watchers on an Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria got a show from J50. “J50 stole the show, and hearts, with more than 60 breaches as she and her family moved south in Haro Strait,” said Clint Rivers, a naturalist and photographer. “It’s like she just figured out how this breaching thing works and couldn’t stop. She was still breaching well into the evening.”

I’ll be making my first trip to Victoria in the near future and have decided to do not one but two whale watching tours with Eagle Wing Tours! It would be amazing to see one of the new Orca calves, however just having the opportunity to see these incredible mammals on their own terms and in their environment will be an experience of a life time. Stay tuned for photos from my trip – but for now enjoy the photos below of J50

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© Clint Rivers, Eagle Wing Tours, Victoria, BC

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© Clint Rivers, Eagle Wing Tours, Victoria, BC

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© Clint Rivers, Eagle Wing Tours, Victoria, BC

Operation Sleppid Grindini #OpGrindini

Entire pods of pilot whales and dolphins are brutally and senselessly slaughtered in the Faroe Islands. The slaughter is better known by the traditional Faroese term, grindadráp, or simply as the grind. Similar to the infamous Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt, the grind is also a blood red stain on these otherwise pristine waters.

The local community heads out in small boats loaded with stones, hooks, ropes, and knives. Once they’ve approached the pod, the boats form a small half-circle behind the dolphins. Small rocks attached to lines are thrown into the water to create a wall of bubbles to reflect the sonar of the pilot whale. The cetaceans interpret the bubbles as a cliff wall that they must steer away from – because of this, the small boats are able to herd the cetaceans towards a low-lying shore. As the pod approaches land, the boats continue to harass and frighten the mammals until they’re washed up on the shore. Once beached, a knife is used to cut through the veins and arteries that supply blood to the pilot whales head. Some pilot whales suffer for as much as 30 seconds while others can take up to four minutes to die.

On July 23, approximately 200 hundred pilot whales were slaughtered on the killing beaches of the Danish Faroe Islands. These slaughters took place on two separate beaches in the Faroe Islands, resulting in one of the bloodiest days this year. Three Sea Shepherd crewmembers from South Africa, Belgium and Luxembourg have been arrested and another two, from Italy and France, have been detained for standing in defense of the whales that were targeted for slaughter. These people are volunteers who are opposing this atrocity by standing on the shores of the Faroe Islands armed with only a camera.

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Faroese whalers standing in a sea of red blood.

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Land Team Leader Rosie Kunneke is held down with her face into the ground by three Faroese police.

In 2011 not a single whale was slaughtered while Sea Shepherd patrolled the waters of the Faroes. In 2013, when Sea Shepherd was not present, more than 1,300 whales were slain. Last year in 2014, when Sea Shepherd returned, the kill was 33. What has changed so far in 2015 and why are so many whales dying this summer?

From Sea Shepherd Founder Paul Watson – “The answer is the Royal Danish Navy. Despite the fact that killing whales is illegal under European Union regulations, the government of Denmark has thrown their weight behind the killers. Sea Shepherd, as a non-governmental organization that practices non-violent intervention, is at a complete disadvantage against two Danish warships, their helicopters and their small flotilla of commandos in fast small boats plus the boats and officers belonging to the Faroese police. Denmark and the Danish people have sanctioned this cruelty and this despicable slaughter, and no matter how much they claim this is out of their hands, that it is a Faroese responsibility, the fact remains that between those who attempt to save the lives of the pilot whales and dolphins and the blood being spilled on the beach sits the Knut Rasmussen and the frigate Triton, both symbols of Danish power, Danish complicity and Danish involvement.”

Warning – the following video does contain graphic images.

For more information please visit Operation Sleppid Grindini

 

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Reflections of a Cove Guardian #tweet4taiji

It has been over a year since I left Taiji and a year since I have managed to write a blog. I’ve been recently trying to get back into writing and was not quite sure how to come up with a good post, since it has been a significant amount of time since my last one. I’m sure I could come up with numerous reasons as to why I haven’t written anything as of late. But this is what I’ll tell you …

cropped-img_0611.jpgBeing in Taiji has an incredible effect on you. At times it’s hard to describe the emotions you feel and sometimes I’m certain the only people that truly understand the lasting effect of being in Taiji, are my fellow Cove Guardians. It is still one of the best things of done, one of my proudest moments and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

When I first arrived home from Taiji the first thing I did was sleep for almost 18 hours straight! Perhaps from the long travel time it took to actually get home .. I’ve never been one to sleep on airplanes! But more so because it was incredibly hard to go back to your hotel room every night in Taiji and attempt to shut off your mind. You have early mornings, which I’m used to being a morning person, You also have long days, depending on how fast or short the drive hunt is. But at the end of the day the horrific scenes and atrocities you witness seem to replay on a continuous loop in your mind. The dreadful scenes at the Cove are not something that can simply be unseen at the end of the day. Not to mention that after witnessing a slaughter or live capture you need to go through all of the images you shot that day and pick the best (i.e., the images showing the atrocious scenes of the day) so they can be posted to social media. For me I have to say its not just the images in my mind but it’s also the sounds you hear – the banger poles, the killers yelling & laughing, the screams of the dolphins fighting for their lives and the sound of a dolphin taking it’s last breathe before the eerie silence that tells you the slaughter is complete.

Once I was home I was eager to start posting on my blog and it seemed as though I had many things to say and share about my time in Taiji. It was easy to write about my experiences of the blue cove days to the red cove days to monitoring the captives at Dolphin Base and the Taiji Harbour Pens as well. It was not hard to come up with blog posts and the words sometimes seem to simply write themselves. After that, it was as if I didn’t know what to say or perhaps ran out of things to say, essentially the tap ran dry and the words were not flowing as they did before.

So I decided to take a step back for awhile – maybe longer that I anticipated. Now another dolphin hunting season in Taiji is about to come to an end and I am finally writing my first post in over in a year. I still follow the Cove Guardian campaign throughout the season – posting and sharing updates on Twitter and Facebook. I talk about the Cove Guardian campaign every chance I get and my two copies of the Cove documentary are passed out frequently to friends, family and staff members. I even wear my Cove Guardian t-shirt every Friday, as we do casual Fridays at my office and I like to refer to them as Cove Guardian Fridays! After almost two years of Cove Guardian Fridays I finally had a patient ask me where I got my shirt and he was surprised to find out that I had made the trip to Taiji to join the Cove Guardians.

Now the the words seem to be flowing and I once again find myself with the eagerness to write and continue informing people on the continuous atrocities that still happen at the cove. The fact that marine parks, Sea World and swim with the dolphin programs fuel the dolphin drive hunts every year. In the end some people may turn a blind eye to what continues to happen in Taiji, while others will continue to stand watch at the Cove and those people are the dedicated volunteers from all over the world who volunteer their time to join the Cove Guardians.

Please check out the video below to know more about what the Cove Guardians do on the ground while in Taiji

Melissa Seghal and her Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian team highlight the daily atrocities that occur against much beloved, intelligent and social dolphins in Taiji, Japan for six months of each year.

For the dolphins!

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The Risso on the Rocks #tweet4taiji

It is a daunting task at times to witness and photograph the daily atrocities in Taiji. I’ve had many people comment on twitter or Facebook and ask how do Cove Guardians do this? Well first of all, when you make the decision to go to Taiji you are well aware of what you will be witnessing each day. There is really nothing you can do to prepare yourself for this either. For me, the only thing that helped was looking through the lens of my camera and trying to take as many photos as possible … as I’ve said before the camera really is a Cove Guardians only weapon. Of course being surrounded by fellow Cove Guardians, who share your passion and daily experiences, is comforting. We all travel to Taiji for the same reason: to be a voice for the dolphins. Doing this requires us to witness the tormenting, manhandling, and inhumane treatment of dolphins on a daily basis.

December 20, 2013 – this will be one slaughter and one moment I will surely never forgot. Every day in Taiji is different and every slaughter is different, and each day you experience a roller coaster of emotions. The images from this day seem to be with me at all times and replay almost every night in mind.

This day it was a pod of 10 Risso dolphins that were driven into the cove  and the killing boats seemed to waste no time as they drove this pod for over an hour into the cove, where they would spend their last moments together.

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Risso dolphins are typically known to be very docile. However, this pod of dolphins displayed their awareness of the impending slaughter and in fear they began to throw themselves onto the rocky walls of the cove as they were netted off.

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I remember standing above the Cove watching these Risso dolphins spend their last moments together before the slaughter began.  I was following a few dolphins through my lens and snapping many photos. Within moments, I saw this Risso throw himself onto the rocks. My immediate reaction honestly was: I gasped and wanted to shout out a few profanities at the killers below, but I was standing right next to the livestream and managed to think before speaking. Then the tears came and my initial reaction was that I wanted to step back and compose myself, but in an instant like this your adrenaline takes over. I knew I was there for one reason: get the best shots possible of what was happening. So in a split second while crying and barely being able to see clearly through my camera, I took as many possible photos as I could. I remember standing there, beside my fellow Cove Guardian, Hunter, my gasp had got his attention and his quick thinking allowed this to be caught on the livestream as well, but he also leaned over and asked if I was alright,  I just waved him off, struggled to say yeah and kept shooting. Hunter commented later that day saying ” You were on a mission and like a machine, all I could hear was the snap, snap, snap of your camera.” In that moment I was very thankful for one thing … the high speed continuous shooting mode on my camera. And Hunter was right, I was on a mission, to expose the brutality of the slaughter and be able to have the photos to display the awareness dolphins have of the situation they are in. This dolphin clearly knew he was in danger, was frightened and thought the only possible way out was to throw himself on the rocky wall of the cove.

Below are a few more photos in the sequence I shot them of this particular event in the Cove that day. Even though this happened a month ago, I remember it as if it was yesterday.

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The photos speak for themselves, and as I saw this dolphin throw itself onto to rocks, it tore my heart and soul apart in just a few moments. In the end I was able to walk away from this experience, however this Risso and the rest of the pod lost their lives in the bloody confines of the infamous cove and eventually wound up lifeless on the butcher house floor.

While being a Cove Guardian is a challenging experience, it is one I will not soon forget and an experience I will choose to do again. Why? Because it is just as Jane Goodall puts it “The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

I leave you with one final phrase “Luctor et Emergo” translated as, “Struggle and Emerge.” This is the school motto of Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, where I had the privilege to attend high school. Notre Dame is an integral part of the person I have become today and these word are with me all the time and most certainly helped me to struggle and emerge from my time in Taiji, as an even stronger voice for the dolphins.

For the dolphins!

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