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Japanese dolphin advocate needs help to keep business afloat

By Elizabeth Batt     Aug 3, 2013 in Environment
A former Japanese dolphin hunter who won the respect of many when he turned his drive boat into an dolphin-watching vessel, needs urgent help to continue his mission.
According to Ecojoia.com, a merchandiser whose sales support environmental and humanitarian non-profit organizations, former Japanese fisherman, Izumi Ishii, faces losing his boat completely unless he can make his final payment by August 10.
In the fight for whale and dolphins, Mr. Ishii remains a crucial voice within Japan. Born into a family of dolphin hunters in Futo, Japan, the young Ishii was expected to follow in his father's footsteps. As the dutiful son, he did what was best for his family, but it was a profession that spiritually broke him.
In an interview with Mr. Ishii last February, the former fisherman told Digital Journal:
I always felt sorry to the dolphins. I was always saying "I am sorry" and put my hands together in my mind whenever I was killing them.
It was a feeling that never subsided.
"I realized that I had never enjoyed killing dolphins," Ishii-san said. "I decided to stop hunting."
In a bold and brave move, Mr. Ishii did more than simply cease dolphin hunting. He began to campaign against the dolphin drives within his country. In 2002 he traveled to the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) annual meeting in Shimonoseki, Japan. Under intense public scrutiny, he formally announced his intention to cease dolphin hunting and urged his fellow hunters to do the same.
An emotional Mr. Ishii spoke softly of change as he explained his decision. "When fishermen slit the dolphins' throats" he said, "they open their eyes wide and then tears come, and as soon as their throats are slit, they open their eyes and they scream."
The cost of speaking out
The response from his former fellow fishermen was swift. Ridiculed for his sympathetic view, Ishii-san and his family were ostracized. Summoned to a meeting at the Fisheries Union, his former colleagues were clear about what should happen. "Ishii should be ousted from this town, from this union," they said, "he should have his fishing license taken away."
Mr Ishii almost lost his boat -- the Kohkaimaru  recently. The former dolphin hunting vessel is now ...
Mr Ishii almost lost his boat -- the Kohkaimaru, recently. The former dolphin hunting vessel is now used to show people how beautiful whales and dolphins are in their natural habitat.
Izumi Ishii
"As of this day, I stopped talking to anybody in Futo port," Ishii-san told DJ last February, "but I did not mind it at all." Instead, he added, "one feeling started growing inside of me ... my feeling of atonement to the dolphins. It grew more and more and it was like water was overflowing in a cup."
Forced to take out a series of loans to get through the tough times, Mr. Ishii turned his former dolphin vessel into a eco-tourism business, and instead of driving in dolphins for slaughter, his 'Kohkaimaru,' now ferried people to view them in their natural habitat.
But eco-tourism was a tough gig. Unable to meet his payment earlier this year, and just days away from losing his boat, fellow dolphin advocates raised more than $6,000 to keep Mr. Ishii's dream alive. Mr. Ishii took to YouTube shortly afterwards to express his gratitude.
With just one final payment left to make on his boat, Ishii-san is once again struggling to meet the payment. According to Ecojoia, Mr. Ishii has until August 10 to find, "600,000 JY (about $6,000 US Dollars)."
For the environmentally-friendly company, this lone voice in the wilderness is not one they care to see silenced. "It is critical," the company said, "that the world show its support for what he has done."
For many appreciative of the courage it took to stand up and be heard, Ishii-san remains a beacon of hope and a chance to see real change within Japan. His failure would be a serious setback for advocates who suggest eco-tourism as a viable and alternative option to the dolphin drives conducted at Taiji.
With less than one month away from the resumption of the dolphin drive season, Ecojoia believes that Mr. Ishii's message is more important than ever. The former fisherman had plans to, "to travel to other parts of Japan and share his success as an eco-tourist operator," they explained.
The company added that it was crucial that Ishii-san be allowed to do so. "This is a step in the battle to end the slaughter," Ecojoia said, "and we can help."
To help the former fisherman, the company has established a link for public donations in support of Izumi Ishii's Whale and Dolphin Tour business. "Please make your donation," Ecojoia pleaded, "no matter how small or big."
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