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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4 Blue! #tweet4taiji

If you are familiar with the Cove Guardian campaign in Taiji, then you already know that a Blue day is one the best things to experience as a Cove Guardian and one of the best days for dolphins passing by the waters in Taiji.

I was lucky enough to experience four Blue Cove days in a row, during my time in Taiji. Two of these days the 12 banger boats did leave Taiji harbor to hunt for dolphins, but on these days they were unable to find or successfully drive in any dolphins! These are the best days … seeing the boats come back to harbor one by one without any dolphins is truly a great feeling! What better to do when the boats come back, then to greet them in Taiji harbor with the Sea Shepherd flag. It is our way of letting them know we are not going anywhere and we will not stop until the slaughter ends! Besides a Blue day means no murdering or stealing of wild and free dolphins!

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Proudly holding the flag in Taiji Harbor on a Blue Cove Day

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My Cove Sisters, Jade, Michelle, Dorian, Fran and I, proudly waving the flag as a banger boat (in the background) returns to harbor empty handed!

The two other Blue Cove days experienced were the result of rain and bad weather altogether. With rough seas and wind, the boats did not leave Taiji harbor for two consecutive days. While these Blue days are still great to experience, the unfortunate part of the bad weather is the many captive dolphins in Taiji Harbor and Dolphin Base who have no escape from the wind and rough seas. These dolphins need to use the majority of their strength and energy to fight the rough current and waves, to keep from being tossed around into the sides of their sea pens.

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Rough seas and high winds kept the banger boats in port today

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We also clean up litter & debris on the beach while numerous police watch and video Cove Guardians

I took this video at Dolphin Base, in the pouring rain, while checking in on the captives. This should give you a sense of what the dolphins have to compete with during rough weather and having no escape from the floating sea prison. During my time in Taiji, Dolphin Base held, several bottlenose dolphins, false killer whales and several pacific white sided dolphins.

For the dolphins!

Mel

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Proudly standing on the rocks of the infamous Cove

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

Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt & Slaughter #tweet4taiji

Only 8 days remain until the fisherman of Taiji begin another season of the annual Dolphin Drive Hunt & Slaughter

The slaughter of dolphins, porpoises and small whales occurs in Taiji, Japan each year. Starting on September 1 and usually continues through March of the next year. Fisherman herd whole families of small cetaceans into a shallow bay and mercilessly stab and drown them to death.

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The dolphin drive hunts in Taiji do not just end in the killing of dolphins, Taiji is “ground zero” for the international trade in live dolphins. There is a direct link between the captive dolphin entertainment industry and the bloody waters of the Cove in Taiji. Supporting a live dolphin show or participating in a confined swim with dolphin program is supporting the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji and in return directly relates to killing of thousands of dolphins each year for human consumption.  It is the dolphin entertainment industry that drive the hunt and the killing of dolphins follows in its wake. For the dolphins pulled from their families and sold into captivity, life is beyond horrible.

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Once the dolphins are driven into the Cove area, they are then herded into a southern finger off the Cove. Oftern main mammal trainers from the nearby Dolphin Base and the Taiji Whale Museum wil move among the captured dolphins and select the young dolphins and those deemed “beautiful” (that is without any scarring) for the captive entertainment industry. Those not selected are pushed further into the Cove and hunters push a metal rod into the dolphin’s spinal cords. Once the rod is removed, a wooden plud is then hammered into the pole. The insertion of the rod causes paralysis, however the dolphins are stil alive and very much aware of what is happening to them and to their family members. A rope is then tied around their tails adn they are hauled out tothe waiting gutting barge by small skiffs. Most of them slowly drown and die during this towing activity.

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What can you do to help:

Dolphin exploitation continues to this day because the public remains unaware of dolphin suffering. Now that you are aware, please do not fund the suffering of dolphins and cetaceans by purchasing a ticket to a dolphin show or swim with dolphin program

Spread the word by following  Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Operation Infinite Patience on social media and spread the word to your friends and family

Follow the Cove Guardians on Facebook & Twitter for daily activity in Taiji at the Cove:

Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Page (official) & @CoveGuardians

Educate others on the link between the Taiji dolphin slaughter and the captive dolphin entertainment industry. Discourage your family and friends from visiting dolphinariums, such as Sea World, Marineland Canada, etc., or participating in swim with dolphin programs.

Day 4 of a Blue Cove … let us not forgot the others though

Excellent news today of a Blue Cove for 4 consecutive days!! However, before we celebrate let’s not forget about the dolphins being held captive in the Taiji Harbor pens.

These dolphins have been ripped from a life with their families, most having just witnessed the majority if not all of their pod being slaughtered within the cove. Now, they are confined to a life of imprisonment and to solely provide entertainment for humans.

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How heartbreaking is to see this dolphin starring out of the nets at the open ocean? Confined to a harbor pen that in reality is probably not much larger than my kitchen! Those dolphins taken into captivity go from having the entire ocean as their daily playground, to spending the rest of their lives in a tiny pen, tank or pool!

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At first glance it may appear to those who are unfamiliar with this situation that these dolphins are enjoying themselves, having fun, playing, etc. But let me ask you this … do you know why a dolphin goes from starring out of the net of the that tiny pen, to suddenly jumping up and down? Why is it that dolphins in captivity perform the tricks they do?

The answer is plain and simple … not because they want to entertain us … because they have to in order to survive and be fed. The dolphins held in the Taiji Harbor pens are only fed twice a day and only if they perform for the trainers. Whereas, in the wild an adult dolphin will eat anywhere from 22-50 lbs. of fish per day.

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I want to share with you a brilliant analogy of the training of a captive dolphin to training your dog to sit or stay.

“Can you imagine your neighbor was trying to teach his dog to sit. He would starve him for a good two weeks and then he would continue to  deprive the dog of food and the dog would ONLY get food if he sat, or rolled over or jumped up and down on command. You would probably call this neighbor sick and report him to the SPCA. This is the ‘natural’ process of ‘breaking in’ a wild Dolphin so we humans can go watch them perform for us for a few bucks at the local aquarium or dolphinarium.” Grant Nash (who is currently in Taiji with the Cove Guardians)

I know that most people would never agree that training a dog this way is any way humane, so why is that some people support a local aquarium or dolphinarium? My belief is that for the most part people are completely unaware of how that dolphin you see at a place like Sea World, was trained, where it came from and how many other dolphins were slaughtered the same day that one dolphin you are watching was ripped from it’s family in the bloody waters of the Cove.

While a Blue Cove day in Taiji is always excellent news and 4 consecutive blue cove days even better news, today I will celebrate a Blue Cove while never forgetting the dolphins still imprisoned in the Taiji Harbor Pens.

For the dolphins!