Two days after driving a pod of 24-26 pilot whales into Taiji Cove, Japan, 21-23 whales have been slaughtered. Three of the marine mammals were taken into captivity.
The pod of pilot whales with juveniles driven into the cove last Thursday evening after a battle that lasted several hours. Having been left in the cove overnight, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) reported that "Four skiffs filled with killers and trainers have arrived at cove."
The skiffs they said, pushed the pod towards shallower water where three pilot whales including two juveniles were taken to Taiji harbor pens. The remaining 21-23 whales were held in the cove for yet another night until today.
About 30 minutes ago the whales learned their fate. Melissa Sehgal, a Cove Guardian with SSCS, reported that skiffs were once more ushering the pod towards shallow water.
Sehgal then tweeted:
1 whale tried to escape but killer roped the tail and is now dragging to shore.
Less than 15 minutes later it was all over.
The "thrashing of whales and yelling from killers has ceased," said Sehgal. "Now silence. The murder is complete."
As the last of seven boats ferried the slaughtered whales to be butchered, Sea Shepherd reported:
Leaving cove now ... Last skiff carrying pilot whale. This whale is still alive and moving!
It was a blow for activists who had campaigned tirelessly for the whales' release since their capture two days ago. Ric O'Barry, Director of Dolphin Project and Save Japan Dolphins said it can be hard for the activists that selflessly give of themselves to oversee these dolphin drives.
"It is an awful feeling for our Taiji Cove Monitors to go to sleep knowing they will witness chaos and live captures and likely bloody death in the Cove" he said, "I feel for all of them."
Martyn Stewart, an activist who filmed the pilot whales shortly before their death, said he spent some time with the pilot whales last night. "All are just spy-hopping," Stewart said on his Facebook page, "It is really heartbreaking to say the least." Stewart's video of the whales' last moments can be viewed on YouTube.
The pilot whales are the first marine mammals to be killed by Taiji fishermen since the season opened on Sep. 1. The dolphin drives, featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove, begin September 1 and end in March. The hunt is conducted by a small group of fishermen with just 12 boats from the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan. Last year over 700 dolphins were killed.