Activists say that Taiji fishermen are on a relentless campaign
this season in the small fishing village on the coast of Japan made famous by the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove
. Since the season began on Sept. 1, eyewitness reports tell of hunts taking place with a level of brutality and cruelty that has left many dolphin advocates stunned and speechless.
From being rammed with boat motors to throwing themselves onto jagged rocks to try and escape the slaughter, activists reported that marine mammals destined for captivity or slaughter now faced a new threat, starvation. When a large pod of 80-100 pilot whales
and bottlenose dolphins were driven into the cove on Sept. 13, activists expected that the slaughter would begin the next day.
Except it didn't. The following morning sources reported that fishermen took the day off, leaving the pod for a second day without access to food. Finally on the third day after the pod was divided by nets, 35-40 whales were driven into the shallows. Melissa Sehgal
, Cove Guardian leader with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
tweeted that the slaughter had commenced:
Taiji: this is like a scene of a horror movie except this is real! Whales thrashing, caught in nets and run over by skiffs. Slaughtering 1 by 1.
For whales that fought to escape, tail ropes dragged them towards the shore and death. Pod members not slaughtered were forced to swim in the bloody waters of the cove. When it was done, it took nine boat transfers to haul the dead whales past the survivors for processing. Those who now huddled together at the outer nets, would spend a fourth hungry night in the cove.
Outraged by the inhumanity, dolphin advocates across the globe began to wonder why there was no media coverage. Where was the press in all of this? Why was it that too few seemed to care?
Social media campaign group Save Misty the Dolphin
(SMTD) told Digital Journal that the whole Misty team was gutted over the cruel capture of this very large pod of pilot whales. "In two seasons of tracking Taiji," said Sandy McElhaney an Administrator with the group, "we had never seen anything like that. We felt that we needed to do something to bring this to the attention of the media."
Along with colleague Martha Brock, McElhaney and Brock penned the first of three CNN iReports
, hoping that the news giant would take notice and cover the plight of the remaining pilot whales being held in the cove. For that to happen, SMTD needed the help of thousands of dolphin supporters around the globe. The more attention the articles received, the more likely CNN would be to take note.
"The response from the community was overwhelming," said McElhaney:
More than 15,000 people viewed that piece and 12,000 people told CNN to run the story. The comments that people wrote on the reports were so heartfelt. I know many great people in the activist community who literally stayed up all night doing everything they could to get the word out about this story.
As the plight of the pilot whales continued to unfold, SMTD followed up with two more iReports. "Concurrent with this groundswell of people calling for media in Taiji" said McElhaney, "Sea Shepherd requested an interview from CNN International yesterday."
The request was granted, and the interview (see above), took place with Sehgal via telephone. It occurred less than an hour after Sehgal had witnessed yet another slaughter within the same pod of pilot whales.
For a few of the pod, it had all been too much. Sea Shepherd
Some of this pod is just floating at surface. Dead from exhaustion, starvation, stress and separation from family.
And "Despite extreme weather conditions," reported Cove Guardians
on Facebook, "killers managed to slaughter 35-40 pilot whales."
"I wish there was more we could have done for that pod." said McElhaney, but "I am so grateful the word is getting out there, so grateful for the folks on the ground and so grateful for an amazing community at Save Misty the Dolphin."
McElhaney explained how everyday, her team, "Comes together with one goal in mind and that is how can we help? How can we help the dolphins? How can we help the folks on the ground? How can we help the 20,000 people in our facebook community who struggle to make sense of the mess in Taiji. How can we help make real change?"
The Administrator vows that as long as there are dolphin hunts in Taiji, SMTD will give all it's got to stop them. "Never be silent – Never give up," is the campaign's motto said McElhaney, and even though many whales have been slaughtered, SMTD continues to pass on its message over the sale of their toxic meat
Meanwhile, even after two slaughters, some of the pilot whales managed to survive the trauma of the four-day-long capture.
Activists feared another hungry night lay ahead for them, but fishermen drove them out to the ocean after they had finished the second slaughter. Unneeded because of the glut of fresh whale meat available for sale, the remaining pod was released.
Now a mere fraction of the size they once were, raided, hungry and drained pilot whales were shuttled back out to sea. Some of the gentle giants – who never appear to threaten human harm even in their darkest hour, left the cove behind. But the horror of Taiji, went with them.