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article imageDolphin activists plan to occupy the Japanese Embassy in Miami Special

By Elizabeth Batt     Jan 7, 2012 in Environment
Miami - In a play on the Occupy Wall Street movement, dolphin activists are planning a demonstration outside the Consulate General of Japan in Miami next week, to protest the ongoing slaughter of dolphins in Taiji.
According to Occupy Wall Street.org, since the movement first began on September 17, 2011, it has spread to "over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally", and now the grassroots protest which urged global change, has inspired a growing group of animal activists eager to take up the cause for cetaceans in Japan.
The cause began a few months back with 'Occupy The Cove', which was formed by an international group of dolphin lovers on Facebook. Their idea was to symbolically occupy a cove in Taiji, Japan, used to capture dolphins. Since then, the movement has expanded and exploded across the social media site, with events being planned around the world. The latest event, 'Occupy the Japanese Embassy', will take place in Miami next week.
The protest is being organized by activist Barbara Napoles, producer of the above video captured earlier this year at the Miami Seaquarium. In 2005, Napoles was watching the local news when an appeal was issued by the Marine Mammal Conservancy (MMC) of Key Largo, asking for volunteers to help 80 rough-toothed dolphins who had stranded themselves on the sand flats in Marathon, Florida. Always an animal lover, Napoles felt compelled to help and credits this event for launching her career as an activist and creating a "one-woman band on a mission."
The administrator of the social media campaign 'Save the Blood Dolphins,' Napoles' protest named 'Occupy the Japanese Embassy,' will be on January 12 outside of the Consulate General of Japan in Miami. Napoles hopes to raise awareness for the plight of dolphins in Japan.
Japan's Ministry of Fisheries issues over 20,000 permits per year for the hunting and capture of dolphins, over 2,000 of these are issued to the Fisheries Union in Taiji. Napoles focus is indeed on the small coastal town of Taiji whose dolphin drives were clandestinely filmed for the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove (2009). Once dolphins are secured in the natural inlet, a select few are sold to marine parks and the remainder are slaughtered for meat. Taiji is currently midway through its dolphin drive season.
We caught up with Barbara Napoles and asked her about her forthcoming event, and what she hopes to achieve by hosting it.
EB: So why Occupy the Japanese Embassy?
BN: It's after the Occupy Wall Street movement. We feel that this was a great way to bring awareness to the cause. Last year we held an event called "Positive Change for Taiji", this is our third event at this Embassy.
EB: What do you hope to achieve with the protest?
BN: We're raising awareness for the plight of the dolphins in Japan and the slaughter that happens on a yearly basis from September to March. The event will also bring awareness to Cove Guardian Erwin Vermeulen, who is under arrest in Taiji for photographing a dolphin being transferred from a sea pen in Taiji. Japan is detaining him and it's Erwin's word against the word of a trainer who says that Erwin pushed him.
[Dutch national Vermeulen, is a member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and was arrested on Dec. 16. He is expected to stand trial on Jan. 25].
EB: So what is Occupy the Japanese Embassy's message to Japan?
BN: Our message is very simple: Stop the dolphin hunts and we will never be back to protest in front of a Japanese Embassy again. We don't have a problem with the citizens of Japan, just the 37 fishermen who are killing machines. We embrace the people of Japan but their government is not taking care of its citizens. There is also a Dutch citizen being held in a Japanese prison and no one is allowed to visit him or know what his conditions are. Bringing awareness to what is happening in Taiji is important along with the fact that the meat of the dolphins is highly contaminated with mercury.
EB: How is Japan neglecting its citizens?
BN: Money donated to help the victims of the tsunami and the earthquake was used it to refit their antique whaling ships and yet the Japanese people are still suffering.
[Fisheries Agency spokesman for Japan, Hideki Moronuki, disputes this and said funds used were not donated funds, but part of a supplementary budget allocated from the Japanese government].
EB: Do you think the Japanese government will listen?
BN: Well they [Embassy staff], have come down and counted the amount of people that happen to be at the protest before. At the first protest, I went directly up to the 32nd floor and tried to present them with 100 letters I had received from my members back then. They were very respectful but they did not accept them. Last September, I went with a list of signatures from various petitions which was over 1,000 signatures. To answer your question though, I know they hear us. Will they listen? Only time will tell.
EB: How can people attend the event?
BN: We are meeting at the Embassy on 80 SW 8th Street (their exact location is at the corner of 9th St.). The event starts at 2 PM and will run until 6 PM on January 12. We will also be giving out Save Japan Dolphins.org fliers and raffling off some DVD's of The Cove and A Fall from Freedom (2011).
Napoles ultimate mission she says, is to help Ric O'Barry of Save Japan Dolphins stop the slaughter and captivity of dolphins. "You can do anything," she says, "if you just focus on your goal.
For more information on the planned protest, Napoles can be contacted via e-mail at SaveBloodDolphin@aol.com or through the Facebook event page, Occupy the Japanese Embassy and Save the Blood Dolphins. The event will be streamed live on UStream.tv.
More about the occupy movement, occupying the japanese embassy, Antiwhaling protester, Whaling
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