#TaijiTuesday – Risso’s Dolphins

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© Nicola Hodgins

Risso’s dolphins are in some ways an unusual species that has not been well studied, mainly due to their preference for deep, oceanic waters but research is now underway on several populations throughout their range. One of the most enigmatic cetaceans, this little-known dolphin has an unusual appearance. Unlike many other dolphins, Risso’s dolphin lack a beak, and the bulbous head rises almost vertically from the upper jaw and blunt snout. The body is robust and powerful, and tapers towards a relatively narrow tail, and a distinct crease runs along the top of the melon. Risso’s dolphin may also be recognized from the extensive lines of white scar tissue that stretch down the sides of the body. Their physical appearance is unique and the numerous scars, from their major prey item, squid, and made by other Risso’s dolphins, give them peculiar markings. The amount of white scarring generally increases with age and older individuals can have a notably white head because of this. These scars, along with unique features on the dorsal fin allow for identification of individual dolphins, although allowance has to be made for them changing over time. Risso’s dolphins are also the only species of cetacean to possess a distinct vertical crease on its forehead; this is more pronounced in calves.

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© Nicola Hodgins

Risso’s dolphins can be highly active at the surface exhibiting a range of behaviours including breaching and spyhopping. They do not generally bow ride, but they can be seen travelling in the wake of ships and surfing in waves. They are generally seen in groups of between 10 and 50 animals, but larger schools, up to 4,000 individuals, have also been reported. There is little information about their behaviour but group dynamics are thought to be fluid as in some other dolphin species, with composition changing over time. Risso’s dolphins generally prefer deeper offshore waters where they feed almost exclusively on squid, and have been seen forming lines when hunting. They can be found associating with other species of cetacean such as bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales.

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© Nicola Hodgins

 

The Risso’s dolphin is a widely distributed species and can be found in the temperate and tropical zones of all the world’s oceans. Although there is no global population estimate, the species is listed on the IUCN Red List as of ‘Least Concern’ worldwide. Major threats to this species include directed hunts (for example in Japan, the Faroes, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Taiwan), accidental entanglement in fishing gear, climate change, and noise pollution.

Video: Risso’s Dolphins

 

In Taiji: The 2017/2018 Drive Hunt Quote allows for 251 Risso’s Dolphins

Risso’s dolphins suffer greatly in Taiji, they are rarely taken for captivity and releases are also very rare. This species is hunted solely for their meat, along with other body parts. When a Risso’s pod is driven into the cove, the nets close and the tarps are drawn over the killing beach and you know their fate is set and that slaughter is now imminent.

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. There are some moments you just don’t forget from a slaughter or perhaps are unable to forgot … the sounds of the banger boats banging on their poles as they drive the dolphins into the cove, the sound of a dolphin taking its last breathes and the sound of a dolphin thrashing furiously in an attempt to escape death and then the eerie silence that tells you the slaughter is done and that yet another pod has lost its life at the hands of the Taiji fisherman.

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Pod of Risso’s Dolphins

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Being pushed toward the killing cove shore

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Being pushed toward the killing cove shore

 

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Risso dolphin throws itself against the rocks in an attempt to escape slaughter

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Risso dolphin throws itself against the rocky walls of the cove

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Bloody boots oustide the butcher house.

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Being monitored by Police outside of the butcher house

I took the majority of the photos above during my time in Taiji in December 2013, with the exception of the one of the police monitoring myself and fellow Cove Guardian, Michelle. During my weeks in Taiji, I witnessed several different pods of Risso’s dolphins slaughtered and not a single dolphin was taken for captivity. Apparently the Risso dolphin meat is a favourite among the locals in Taiji.

The Risso on the Rocks photos are a moment I will never forget. If you would like to read more about the story behind the photos please check out: https://goo.gl/c7byTc

 

 

#TaijiTuesday – Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

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Pacific White Sided Dolphins near Telegraph Cove, BC, Canada – Photo Credit: John E. Marriott

The 2017/2018 Drive Hunt Quota allows for 134 Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

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The Pacific white-sided dolphin is energetic, active and is frequently seen leaping, belly flopping and somersaulting. They are strong fast swimmers and enthusiastic bow riders, often staying with moving vessels for extended periods.

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The Pacific white-sided dolphin has a robust body with a very short stubby beak and black lips. The dorsal fin is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of this species being tall, falcate, and bicoloured with a black leading edge fading to grey on the trailing edge. The large flippers are similarly coloured with rounded tips. Overall the Pacific white-sided dolphin is dark grey or black in colour. As its name suggests, it has a greyish thoracic patch which extends down the sides to just below the dorsal fin. Thin greyish stripes under the dorsal fin meet and broaden along the tailstock. The throat and belly are bright white. The eye is surrounded by a dark patch and there is a black stripe running from the face to the flippers and down to the anus, separating the white underside from the greyish flanks. Several colour morphs exist throughout the species range. The Pacific white-sided dolphin may be confused with the common dolphin, but the latter has a more pronounced beak and different colour pattern, whilst the former can usually be easily identified by its diagnostic dorsal fin.

Video: Mark Peters and friends encounter an unexpected surprise while albacore fishing off the coast of Santa Cruz, CA – Pacific White Sided Dolphins

Pacific white-sided dolphins are extremely agile, acrobatic and social. Generally traveling in groups of tens or hundreds of individuals, they can be seen in herds of 2,000 or more. Groups are often segregated according to sex and age. They associate with many other species including northern right-whale dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, sea lions, and seals. They are avid bow and wake riders, and are known to actively approach boats. They can be seen performing leaps, flips, spins, somersaults, and they often porpoise at high speeds. Large groups travelling at high speeds create a lot of surface disturbance that is visible from a great distance.

Video: Dolphin Superpod in Strait of Georgia

The Pacific white-sided dolphin is found in the cool temperate waters of the North Pacific and adjoining seas. It prefers deep, offshore waters around the continental shelf although they can also be found in more nearshore waters. In recent decades the major threat to this species was bycatch in drift and gill-net fisheries operated on the high seas. Many thousands of individuals were killed before the fisheries were banned in 1993. Bycatch in other fisheries however remains a threat. Pacific white-sided dolphins have also been taken in small numbers off the coast of Japan, and that country is considering starting regular hunting of this species again. Other threats include prey depletion, marine debris and the impacts of climate change.

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Distribution Map

There is no reliable global population estimate for this species and the IUCN categorises this species as of ‘Least Concern’.

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In Taiji: As already mentioned, Pacific white-sided dolphins are very fast, very active and they are also very valuable to the captive trade in Taiji  – they are worth more than Bottlenose dolphins. So valuable that they do not drive the Pacific white-sided dolphins into the cove for fear of injury and the simple fact that they are worth more captive than they are for meat.

Instead of driving the Pacific white-sided dolphins into the cove the Taiji dolphin hunters and trainers will do an off-shore capture. In the off-shore capture the dolphin hunters will try to orchestrate large nets to surround the Pacific white-sided dolphin pod. The small skiffs will then attempt to pull these nets tighter and tighter, making if more difficult for the dolphins to swim or even surface.

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These dolphins are then subjected to examination by trainers to determine probability for a life of captivity. The dolphins are then tossed into skiffs and held down by several of the Taiji fisherman netting them to the floor of the boats. They are then taken to the Taiji harbour sea pens (floating sea prison) and dumped over the side of the skiffs into the tiny sea pens, which will hold multiple dolphins.

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Pacific White Sided Dolphins at Dolphin Base in December 2013:

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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

Global Candlelight Vigil in Remembrance of the Lives Lost in the Cove

March 1, 2017 marked the first annual Global Candlelight Vigil in Remembrance of the Lives Lost in the Cove, organized by Dolphin Freedom Now. Be sure to follow Dolphin Freedom Now on Facebook & Twitter.

Activists around the world gathered in memory of the dolphins killed during the 2016-2017 Taiji Dolphin Drive hunt. A total of 569 dolphins were slaughtered this season and 235 dolphins were taken for a life of captivity this season.

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The event was also a way to honour the thousands of dedicated activists around the world who  follow and report on the dolphin hunts in Taiji from September to March each year.

Many activists held their own  private Candlelight vigils, while other activists held events around the world: Australia, Alaska, Germany, New Zealand, Denmark, South Carolina, United Kingdom, Los Angeles, New York City, Osaka Japan, Philadelphia, Philippines, San Diego, San Francisco & Seattle.

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Osaka, Japan:

 

 

 

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!

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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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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