Reflections of a Cove Guardian – What has changed in 4 years?

 

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4 years ago today I arrived in Taiji, Japan, to start my journey as a Cove Guardian. What has changed in the 4 years since I’ve been there? The drive hunt still continues – dolphins are still slaughtered and taken for captivity. The Cove Guardian campaign has ended, largely due to the fact that Japan does not allow veteran volunteers with Sea Shepherd to enter the country. Many volunteers have attempted to go back, only to be held in immigration, questioned and then deported, never to return. Simply witnessing and documenting the slaughter of dolphins in Japan is now a crime and classified as terrorism. Only Dolphin Project remains on the ground in Taiji to document the daily atrocities that occur in the little town of horrors.

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Rarely does a day go by without some thought of my time in Taiji. Over the course of my two weeks on the ground, I would witness several different slaughters (bottlenose, striped & risso dolphins) and live captures (bottlenose & pacific white sided dolphins). I remember each of these vividly, as if it just happened yesterday & it’s not something you forget easily. Witnessing a pod of dolphins spending their last moments together in fear, frustration, panic and hearing those last few breathes they take as they are pushed under the tarps of killing shore is utterly heartbreaking.

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In the last year I have seen multiple people on my Facebook/Instagram feed posting photos of them and/or their children swimming with dolphins.  Thanks to Instagram for taking a step in the right direction and for attempting to protect wildlife – see photo below – if you search for #swimwithdolphins an alert pops up stating that you are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with harmful behaviour to animals or the environment.

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 It’s time for people to wake up and realize that yes swimming with dolphins is a harmful behaviour to that dolphin. “The dolphin smile is nature’s greatest deception, it creates the illusion that they’re always happy” Ric O’Barry.

No dolphin has ever volunteered for a life of captivity! The dolphins at swim with dolphin programs, Sea World, Marineland Canada, etc., are performing tricks for food (dead medicated fish), they are taking your child for a ride, ‘dancing’ with them, jumping through hoops all in order to be fed! These dolphins are either stolen from their family/pod or they were born into a life of captivity. Either way, once in captivity, these dolphins are sentenced to a life of imprisonment in a tiny tank or sea pens for one reason only – your entertainment! This is where the problem begins, and if people would stop purchasing tickets to swim with dolphin programs or Sea world and thus supporting them, then the demand for live dolphins will go down and then one day perhaps we can hope for an end to the Dolphin Drive Hunt & Slaughter in Taiji.

Please consider teaching your children kindness to animals and wildlife. Become informed and watch the following documentaries:

  • The Cove, Minds in the Water
  • Blackfish
  • Revolution & Sharkwater (by the late Rob Stewart)
  • Racing Extinction

 

 

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

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 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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Dolphin Base #tweet4taiji

As a Cove Guardian, it was not only my responsibility to report on and document the daily drive hunt and slaughter, but to also monitor the daily activity at Dolphin Base. For me, Dolphin Base is one of the saddest places to see, like the Taiji Harbor pens that hold captive dolphins, it is basically a floating sea prison.

The next three photos give you an idea of what Dolphin Base looks like from left to right. When I say floating sea prison I really mean it. There are a total of 9 pens floating behind the Dolphin Resort Hotel in Taiji that hold captive dolphins and whales, which also happens to be down the road from the Whale Museum which also holds many captive dolphins and whales.

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Far left pens, the one in front held captive bottlenose dolphins and false killer whales. The pen in the back with the black tarp once held beluga whales obtained in a trade with Russia for bottlenose dolphins.

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The middle sea pen, is the largest of all the pens at Dolphin, and is also an entertainment pen. During my time in Taiji there was 5 bottlenose dolphins in this pen.

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On the right there are 6 captive pens, which held bottlenose dolphins and pacific white sided dolphins.

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An idea of what the dolphins go through when the ocean is rough and windy.

I had previously seen photos of dolphin base prior to my visit to Taiji, but once again nothing really prepares you for the experience of seeing this with your own eyes. The first time I walked up to Dolphin Base, my heart broke seeing the conditions these dolphins are forced to live in day and day out. You realize just how small these captive pens are, how many dolphins are crammed into them and you continue see the dolphins listlessly float at the surface or continuously swim in the same direction and breach in the exact same spot over and over again. To me this cries out boredom, depression and frustration. Not being able to leave, not being able to fend for yourself and being completely dependent upon the trainers who were also responsible for the rest of your family members being slaughtered. These dolphins to some people may be considered the “lucky” ones, since they were chosen by the killers and trainers for the captive entertainment industry and avoided slaughter. But honestly what is better death or life of imprisonment? I leave with this question and some photos which I took of the course of my time as a Cove Guardian at Dolphin Base of the poor innocent souls destined to live out their lives performing tricks for dead fish.

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False Killer whale – notice how you can the ribs of this whale from malnourishment

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Bottlenose dolphins – on the dolphin breaching you can again see the rib cage of this dolphin

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Bottlenose dolphin being ignored while trainers prepare dead fish that this dolphin will have to perform tricks correctly for in order to eat.

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Pacific white sided dolphin performing being conditioned or trained for your entertainment, but for them simply to just get some dead fish

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Spy Hoping to see what is going on in the other captive pens. The bottlenose dolphins behind this pacific white sided dolphin were being fed/trained at this point.

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Bottlenose dolphin sent by a trainer to the opposite side of this pen to hold this position until told otherwise by a trainer. Heartbreaking.

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Pacific White Sided Dolphin continuously breached in this corner of the pen, along with the 3-4 others in this sea prison

After reading this post and seeing these photos I hope that all of you will think twice before visiting Sea World, Marineland Canada or any other similar Dolphinarium or swim with dolphin program. Chances are that if you do go, these may be the dolphins you will see or ones that were also taken from their life of freedom in the ocean after having witnessed their family slaughtered. These dolphins are then broken in, conditioned or trained to perform tricks for food. Please do not support captivity! Dolphins are dying in Taiji to entertain you and many brave people are fighting to put an end to these atrocities. If you support the captive dolphin industry they you are also supporting the dolphin slaughter in Taiji. Instead please be a voice for the voiceless!

For the dolphins and whales of Taiji held captive and those that were slaughtered needlessly.

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Checking in on the dolphins at Dolphin Base

My Journey to Taiji #tweet4taiji

My journey to Taiji had been a year in the making. After consistently following the Cove Guardian campaign, in December of last year I made the commitment to join in the fight to be a voice for the dolphins. Becoming a Cove Guardian was an honor.

After my 30 hour trip of planes and airports I arrived in Osaka, Japan. A little bit of a culture shock for me, having only travelled within North America. Landing in a foreign country where I did not speak the language was a challenge at first, but the Japanese people are amazingly friendly and helpful!

After spending my first night in Osaka, I had the daunting task of taking the train to Taiji. I’ve never been on a train before, so having to switch trains multiple times and not being able to communicate properly, left me feeling a little stressed and nervous. Luckily, by chance I managed to meet some fellow Cove Guardians on the train! What a sigh of relief this was, meeting the first of my new Cove Guardian family and not having to make the remainder of the trip on my own! Thanks to Clive, Michelle and Bator for making the train ride a little less stressful for me!

Taiji is exactly as described by Ric O’Barry in the documentary The Cove … A twilight zone … everywhere you look there is a painting, monument or writing on the sidewalks of dolphins and whales. If you didn’t know any better you would think Taiji loved dolphins and whales.

Nothing can really prepare you for the experience of being in Taiji and it is not something that can be easily be put into words either. I am sure that each and every Cove Guardian remembers the exact moment they first saw the infamous Cove. For me, the first time was a simple glance while passing by in a car. The sight of it almost takes your breathe away, one because it really is such a beautiful place and two because you instantly remember how many dolphins and whales have lost their lives at the hands of the Taiji fisherman there. The moment I actually set foot on the shore of the Cove is something I will never forget. I literally just stood there for a few moments taking it all in and in disbelief that I was actually there. Unfortunately my first time on the shore of the Cove was also the second time I would witness a drive in process and a pod of dolphins fight for their lives and eventually lose their life for the sole purpose of human consumption. The only thing that keeps you going in moments such as this, is to pick up your camera and start taking photos, since it is the only weapon you have in Taiji.

Witnessing a pod of dolphins spending their last moments together in fear, frustration, panic and hearing those last few breathes they take as they are pushed under the tarps of killing shore is utterly heartbreaking. But I take solace in the fact that without the Cove Guardians and Operation Infinite Patience the atrocities of the Cove would continue to go unnoticed and unreported to the world and many would not know the horrible secret Taiji attempts to hide.  It is because of the Cove Guardians that there is and will continue to be a constant international spotlight on the daily atrocities that are occurring in Taiji and I am proud to have been apart of this campaign.

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Proudly standing on the shore of the Infamous Cove

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Sitting on the rocks of the Cove. Notice the fence and keep out sign, built to prohibit a direct view into the killing cove.

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Beautiful sunrise at the Cove

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Proudly holding the flag in Taiji harbor as the boats come back empty handed.

After I manage to go through about 8000 photos, I will post more detailed information of my time in Taiji as a Cove Guardian.

If you have any interest in joining the Cove Guardians on the ground in Taiji, do not hesitate, send an email to coveguardian@seashepherd.org and ask for an application. I promise you that it will be an experience of a lifetime and being surrounded by the passionate, like-minded people involved with this amazing campaign will be one of the best things you do. Take the journey to Taiji and be a voice for the voiceless!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only that ever has.” Margaret Mead

For the dolphins!

Captivity & Death: This is Taiji #tweet4taiji

After being held for over 21 hours in the killing cove, a family of 33 Bottlenose dolphins were torn apart with 12 being dolphins taken captive and the rest of the pod brutally slaughtered.

Once all the killers, including trainers, were in the cove, the pod was herded to the killing shore for an inspection of each individual member. Throughout this captive selection the thrashing of the pod can be heard high above the cove which is followed by the blood seeping into the water, leaving us with broken hearts that these dolphins were once again the victims of the profit and greed of the Taiji fishermen.

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Killers manhandle the dolphins into nets during the captive selection

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The captive selection that marine parks do not want you to see

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Being driven towards the killing shore with only two options: death or a life of captivity

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Taiji trainers and killers will seek big money from all the captives taken today

Those not taken for captivity, were needlessly and inhumanely slaughtered for human consumption.

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After a total of 21 dolphins slaughtered the cove runs red

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Tarps are drawn to hide the bloodshed, but through a gap you can see the bloody bodies in the water

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Cove Guardians “One dolphin was seen still conscious under the tarps, writhing around in his/her own blood.”

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Several Bottlenose bodies floating in the waters of the killing cove, under tarps the killers use in an attempt to hide the bloodshed.

Reminder to all of those who are contemplating a visit to Sea World, Marineland Canada, Discovery Cove or any other similar captive marine mammal facility or swim with dolphin program …. your ticket to such places supports the annual dolphin drive hunt in Taiji. Simply stated … Please do not support captivity … dolphins are literally dying to entertain you!

For the Cove Guardians bearing witness and documenting the atrocities that are currently occurring in Taiji … THANK YOU … the world would not know the ongoing brutality against dolphins and whales in the waters of Taiji!

For the dolphins!