On August 31 and September 1, one of the largest gatherings ever by Save Japan Dolphins and its volunteers from around the world, will make a stand for the dolphins of Japan, on a global scale.
Each year, for up to six months between September and March, a small group of fishermen in Taiji, Japan, drive pods of dolphins into a cove and either slaughter them for meat or sell them to captive marine mammal facilities. Last year, 719 dolphins were killed in the cove
; others were sold into captivity to countries such as China, one of the largest purchasers of Taiji dolphins in the world.
For the opening day of the scheduled hunt, Ric O'Barry
and his team of members from Dolphin Project
/Save Japan Dolphins
, travel to Taiji on a peaceful mission to highlight the plight of Japan's dolphins. This year, dolphin advocates from more than 80 cities will join him remotely, by hosting an awareness event of their own.
These advocates come from all walks of life and backgrounds, but they have one thing in common – the dolphins of Taiji. Inevitably, when I asked what first drew many of them to the cause, it was Louie Psihoyos' 2009 Academy Award Winner for Best Documentary – The Cove
If ever there was movie to inspire activism, this is it.
"What did it for me," said Alan Howard while describing the movie, "what really made me want to get involved in putting an end to this," he added, "was when the secret cameras are filming the slaughter. A baby dolphin jumps out of the water to try and escape the killing, then bounces off the rocks of the cove, falls back into the water and awaits its fate at the hands of the fishermen."
Howard who will be co-hosting the New York City event with colleagues Heather Hansen and Lisa Schwerdtfeger-Dash, said that The Cove
movie drove him online to find out more about the issue. Today, Howard is an administrator with the social media campaign, Save Misty the Dolphin
As one of eight administrators at SMTD, Howard follows the drive hunt on a daily basis and reports on activities alongside the rest of the SMTD team. Cove Monitors from Save Japan Dolphins and Cove Guardians with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
, are the boots on the ground in Taiji. They report in real time; when the drive boats leave the harbor, when they return, and ultimately, whether they are driving a pod towards the cove or not.
SMTD uses social media to ensure that everybody else knows.
It is a dedicated role with no pay and long hours and it can last as long as six months, the typical length of a drive season. But it's a price Howard is willing to pay to try and help stop the dolphin hunts in Japan. Leaving his computer behind this time, he is putting boots on the ground and will be flying into NYC to co-host his event and to stand up for the dolphins by spreading awareness on the street.
"The presentation of our message will be peaceful and positive," the activist said, "No hate, no "shame on Japan", no calls for a boycott." All we hope for, he says, is "to increase awareness of the dolphin hunt, and hopefully get more people involved."
His New York City event
will take place outside the Consulate General of Japan, 299 Park Ave New York, New York on Friday August 31st between 11 AM and 2 PM.
Howard hopes everyone will attend, even members of the Japan Society in NYC whom they have invited. He's also hoping that he and his co-hosts can meet with a representative from the Japanese Consulate to hand over a letter, and a copy of The Cove
"We put a lot of heart, soul, time, energy and tears into getting the word out and helping people take action," Howard said, and sometimes "activists feel alone and that no one else cares." But Japan Dolphins Day 2012, he says, "is a great opportunity for you to get out and meet others who also want this hunt to stop." For anyone who has ever wanted to get involved the activist says matter-of-factly, "now is definitely the time."
With more than 80 events planned around the world, a full list of cities hosting events is available at Japan Dolphins Day 2012