Dolphins being captured and slaughtered at Taiji Cove in Japan
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Dolphins being captured and slaughtered at Taiji Cove in Japan

Taiji : Japan | Jan 20, 2014 at 8:33 AM PST
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Sea Shepherd Society Taiji Japan Dolphin Campaign

The annual slaughter of hundreds of dolphins was revealed in the award winning 2009 film “The Cove.” For the first time, the rest of the world saw the ruthless slaughter of dolphins as they are herded into a cove and systematically captured to sell to amusement parks or killed for food.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is recording this year's event by live stream video as fishermen in boats and divers separate the stressed dolphins into small groups with nets. The environmental group said the dolphins appeared bloodied and have had nothing to eat for 72 hours since they were trapped in the Taiji Cove, according to a report by CNN.

The dolphins have been in the cove for four days and will stay trapped until the slaughter is completed Tuesday.

The annual event is a focal point of the Taiji community's dolphin hunting season.

While condemned in Western culture, the annual kill is defended by the Japanese as their right to fish in their customary way.

YouTube video of the shocking slaughter that began on Friday.

The mayor of Taiji, Kazutaka Sangen, said the practice is legal. “We have fishermen in our community and they are exercising their fishing rights," he said. "We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms."

US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy is concerned

Caroline Kennedy was recently installed as US ambassador to Japan and is addressing the issue cautiously. She tweeted she is "deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing."

CNN reported Sangen had this to say in response to her tweet. "I understand her statement as an expression of her concern on this debate. There always are the people who say it's wrong and it's right, but what we have to see is if fishermen are hunting endangered species or not. They don't. We are fishing under the permission just like the US does."

Rare albino dolphin among the captives

Martha Brock posted a report on CNN's iReport page. She is an activist and environmental attorney in Georgia, and posted this iReport after learning of the dolphins' plight. Brock said she watched the live stream video by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, (SCCS) a non-profit marine wildlife conservation organization. Brock said she watched a SCCS live stream of dolphins being corralled into a trapping cove and was horrified by what she saw. “There are activists around the world that are calling the embassy and the press, but I knew I couldn't do much, so I wrote this iReport."

There is not much any of us can do at this point except watch the killing in horror as Brock has and write about it. One of the most heartbreaking events is the capture of baby albino dolphin.

A young albino bottlenose dolphin, which is extremely rare and valuable, will most likely be among those captured and sold. Dolphins taken captive will be sold to aquariums and marine parks, mostly in the United States. These dolphins are trained and bring in millions of dollars in the marine park industry.

In spite of the criticisms of the annual hunt, the Isana Fishermen’s Union of Japan continues to condone the annual ritual. The Sea Sheppard Conservation Society Cove Guardian, however, is commited to challenging the practice as long as it continues and reveal its ruthlessness.

Sea Shepherd mission

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international nonprofit marine wildlife conservation organization. Their mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative and sometimes controversial confrontations, such as direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations, according to its website's mission statement.

Opinion

While the West deplores the capture and slaughter of the dolphins, marine entertainment parks throughout the US rely on a supply of dolphins, which this annual hunt and others provide. If Western culture is going to criticize the Japanese for capture of these animals, they should look toward their own shores and question the demand and high price paid for dolphins in the US.

Although American parks and zoos have not captured dolphins from the wild since 1993, it is still legal for them to do so. Other countries continue to take dolphins and whales from the wild, like the Taiji Cove and the Caribbean.

Capturing even one wild dolphin disrupts the entire pod. In the wild, female dolphins spend their entire lives with their mothers and sisters within the family pod. They communicate with each other through whistles and body language. Dolphins swim together in family pods or tribes of hundreds.

The tragic consequences of captivity reveal indisputable cruelty and inappropriateness of dolphin confinement. Removing wild animals from their natural habitat and communities and keeping dolphins in captivity dooms them to living their lives as mere attractions at theme parks. They are also forced to swim with tourists and are often hand-fed and petted by curiosity seekers. Most of the time, however, they are doomed to swim in endless circles in tiny, barren concrete tanks.

Federal regulations for keeping mammals in aquariums offer little to no protection, and the laws that do exist are reportedly ignored. According to the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals website, Florida’s Sun-Sentinel reported that the federal government “has allowed violators to continue operating for years even after documenting contaminated water, starvation or deaths” and “does little to enforce rules and rarely levies fines or closes facilities.” As a result, aquariums and theme parks have little incentive to fix problems, improve conditions, or comply with reporting requirements.


Resources:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/20/world/asia/japan-dolphin-hunt/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

http://www.seashepherd.org/

http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/zoos-pseudo-sanctuaries/aquariums-marine-parks/

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1076063

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dolphins
The water is red with the blood of slaughtered dolphins herded into Taiji Cove in Japan for the annual "hunt."
Dava Castillo is based in Clearlake, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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