Activists scramble to save over 100 pilot whales in Taiji—Updated

Posted Oct 30, 2012 by Elizabeth Batt
According to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), between 100-120 pilot whales were driven into Taiji Cove, Japan yesterday, and held overnight. Dolphin advocates are attempting to secure their release ahead of a mass slaughter expected later today.
A pod of pilot whales driven into the Cove on September 14th in Taiji  Japan. After being held for s...
A pod of pilot whales driven into the Cove on September 14th in Taiji, Japan. After being held for several days without food, many were slaughtered. Image courtesy of Martyn Stewart.
Image courtesy of Martyn Stewart
This is the fourth pod of pilot whales captured in the Japanese Cove since the season began on Sept. 1. SSCS, who indicated that the pilot whales comprised two separate pods, tweeted around 12 hours ago:
Sea Shepherd ‏@SeaShepherd
Taiji: 10 remaining killing boats driving second pod of pilot whales in toward harbor ... then combine both pods toward cove #tweet4taiji
Both pods have been held together overnight and are expected to be slaughtered later today.
Previous pilot whale hunts this season
The latest pilot whale capture follows on the heels of 24-26 pilot whales caught during the first week of the dolphin drive season, a further 80-100 whales driven in on Sept. 13, plus a third pod of 20-25 pilot whales netted on Sep. 27.
With less than seven hours to intervene on the pilot whales' behalf, social media group Save Misty the Dolphin (SMTD), is petitioning the BBC to cover what is expected to be the whales' final hours.
Where is the media coverage?
SMTD and Sea Shepherd successfully petitioned media coverage from CNN back in September when Taiji herded in 80-100 pilot whales, half of whom were slaughtered. "This media coverage" the group said, "may or may not have impacted the decision to release half the pod. But the media should be on the ground, reporting this, so that whales and people are spared."
Knowing that the whales are facing a potential slaughter later today, Martha Brock, an administrator with SMTD told Digital Journal:
Coordinated action and visibility are key to success. Enough voices speaking with one voice can always make a difference.
Dolphin hunt statistics
Taiji hunts dolphins on an annual basis and either sells what they catch to the marine mammal entertainment industry or slaughters them for their meat. According to statistics posted at, less than two months into the season (minus last night's numbers), Taiji has so far captured "287 dolphins from four species," including short-finned pilot whales; Risso's dolphin; striped dolphin and bottlenose dolphin.
Of those captured adds the online marine mammal inventory:
134 were killed, 117 were released; 28 were live-capture and two additional animals died (one pilot whale after live-capture and one incidental death of a bottlenose following a drive).
Taiji's quota for the 2012-13 drive season (Sept-March) is 2089 dolphins says Ceta-Base; species-wise, these numbers comprise:
604 bottlenose
70 false killer whale
400 pantropical spotted
134 Pacific white-sided
270 Risso's
161 short-finned pilot whale
140 striped
As Taiji sleeps, the pilot whales are being monitored by Cove Guardians with Sea Shepherd. Cove Guardian Leader Melissa Sehgal, tweeted a short while ago:
At cove, pilot whale cries are loud as they continue to huddle together near outer net. Fear, anxiety, as they await their fate. #tweet4taiji
Update 3:48 PM/MST. The pilot whales are now being slaughtered as Sea Shepherd livestreams from Taiji. Sehgal is describing how the whales are throwing themselves onto the rocks to escape and are fighting for every last breath.
The pod is so big Sehgal says, the fishermen are tying their tails with rope and dragging them into the cove, one-by-one to their death. Visibly upset, Sehgal adds, "I don't think I've ever witnessed anything so horrific here in Taiji."
After SMTD amassed over 17,000 signatures (and still climbing) on their petition in the space of a few hours, the main topic of conversation around Twitter is, "Where's the world's media?"
Update Oct. 31, 6:42 AM MST: Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian shared this updated information about the pilot whales on the Cove Guardians' Facebook Page:
"After being held captive in the killing cove overnight, 15 pilot whales were murdered this morning. 14 large adult pilot whales were brutally slaughtered for meat and 1 baby pilot whale drowned after struggling in the nets ... her mother was near her and witnessed her struggle. She remained at that side of the cove grieving for hours after.
The remaining pod of approximately 80-90 remains captive in the cove for a second night and is scheduled to be slaughtered in the morning. These whales witnessed their family members killed one by one and were forced to swim in their blood after the slaughter ... now they await their own fate."
Guardian Nicole McLachlan also described her own experiences about the hunt in her blog at Path to Protect.