For the entire weekend, the Empire State Building in New York glowed a vivid red to remind the world about the ongoing slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. But for the small coastal town in the Wakayama Prefecture, it was business as usual, with two pods of Risso's dolphins being driven into the cove over the weekend. With over 190 Risso's captured so far this season, this species of dolphin has been hit the hardest.
Last Friday, Hollywood and dolphin activists combined their efforts
at the Empire State Building when they threw the switch that lit up New York's most famous landmark in red for three solid days. Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens, director and producer of The Cove
movie, joined Ric O'Barry of Save Japan Dolphins
, professional race car driver Leilani Munter and actor John Leguizamo, to redden the NY sky and raise awareness of the dolphin drives currently underway in Japan.
The documentary The Cove
(2009), used state-of-the-art equipment and hidden cameras to capture covert footage of the killing, opening the public's eyes to the mass slaughter of dolphins which takes place each year. The film drew unwelcome attention to the Japanese fishing town, particularly when it took home the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary. Since the movie's release, Taiji has increased security significantly, instituting measures such as tarps, to ensure the actual slaughter can no longer be filmed.
Even so, activists from both Save Japan Dolphins, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and other conservation groups, continue to report live from the cove, often getting dynamic footage despite the attempt by Taiji fishermen to implement a photographic and video shutout. In fact, back in February, after Taiji officials declared they had developed a new and more humane way of killing dolphins which produced an instant kill, Dieter Hagmann of the German conservation group, Atlantic Blue, revealed video footage
to the contrary.
The new kill method, which fishermen said involved piercing the dolphins' spinal cords with a sharp spike, killed the mammals immediately. Hagmann's footage begged to differ, showing the mammals suffering significantly as spikes are seen being driven into the dolphins' flesh and a wooden plug is rammed into the wound in an attempt to stop the blood from turning the cove's waters, red.
Yet despite the brutal killing methods and efforts by activists to bring them to light, dolphin slaughters are still bloodying the waters of Taiji's cove. Having captured 16 Risso's dolphins on Saturday, a further 13 Risso's were then herded into the cove on Sunday. Four of the almost 30 dolphins captured over the weekend, were selected for captivity, the remainder were slaughtered.
Heather Hill, a monitor for Save Japan Dolphins currently at the cove in Taiji, also appeared to discredit the "instant kill" method. When the allegedly dead mammals were being towed to the butcher house for processing on Saturday, Hill observed a Risso's dolphin
pop its head out of the water and then arch back down underwater.
"It's possible," Hill said, "That it had become paralyzed after the fishermen stabbed it to kill it, and they didn't realize it was still alive, or perhaps they just wanted to let it drown. Either way, it was an excruciating death."
Currently midway through its dolphin drive season, which runs September through March, Japan kills up to 23,000 dolphins a year; over 2,000 of these occur in Taiji. Ceta-base.com
maintains an online database of number of dolphins captured in the drive fisheries and reports that prior to the latest pod captures: "280 dolphins from six different species have been captured in the cove. Of this total, 228 were killed, 38 were released, 14 were live-capture and [and] 5 have an unknown status."
Japan's whaling fleet meanwhile, recently departed for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, where it plans to harvest close to 1,000 minke and fin whales. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
is planning to send three ships with 88 crew members for Operation Divine Wind. With the whaling fleet having beefed up security by employing the Japanese coastguard to protect its ships, tensions couldn't be higher. Season Five of Animal Planet's Whale Wars
, could prove to be, the most precarious to date.