Go away… Nothing to see here

If a dolphin is murdered in Taiji and nobody sees it, is it still cruel and barbaric?
I am astounded at the lengths to which the Taiji town office are going to hide the dolphin slaughter. Whole sections of coastline, with beautiful walking trails and benches for the weary hiker, have been declared off limits to protect the murderers from observation and documentation.

20111108-220836.jpgbeautiful walking path and seats… Now off limits under threat of arrest

Headlands overlooking the cove from north and south have been demarcated into areas you can go (no view of the cove) and areas into which you can be arrested for entering. The demarcation is ugly and haphazard, consisting of rope, fishing nets, laminated signs (in English only) and anything the dolphin hunters had at hand. The town office has made a ruling that it is illegal to cross these barriers. Why??

20111108-221026.jpg look closely and you will see that this sign is attached to fishing net strung between the trees

There is a coast guard cutter(??) stationed off the cove to stop anybody from entering the area from offshore, and when the drive is on, small boats are lowered into the way to patrol the area. A detachment of four coast guard personnel patrol onshore in an unmarked car making sure nobody gets to any position where it is possible to view the cove.

20111108-221606.jpgcoast guard ship with small boat patrolling cove area

When it looks like a pod will be driven all the way to their deaths, a police RIB is sent from Taiji to the cove to patrol the cove and surrounding area prior to the dolphins arriving. The prefecture police are on call for the fishermen who call – and get instant response – if it looks like anybody is going to step over the handrails in the parks to get a better view. You can be arrested for crossing the handrail.

20111108-221746.jpgpolice check the cove as the hunters drive the dolphins in

A detachment of riot police are permanently stationed at the wharf, on 24 hour call for protective services for the fishermen. Once the dolphins are killed the riot police become security guards at all possible entrances to the butchering shed.
The only thing missing is an aerial patrol… Seriously

20111108-222301.jpg4(??) dead dolphins tail dragged from cove to butchers shed

20111108-222055.jpgbutchers shed.. Tarps are all set up while dolphins are slaughtered in the cove

20111108-221915.jpgdolphin passed under a tarp into the butchers shed

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The hunters argue that this hunt is a cultural tradition. Why are the authorities so scared of people watching it and documenting it if it is part of the Japanese cultural heritage? Why is Japan so ashamed? And if they are so ashamed, why do they let it continue???

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20111108-223246.jpgjust after receiving my warning for crossing the yellow line – you can just see it on the ground – could only get these few guys in shot, but from left to right.. Plain clothes policeman, prefecture (state) police, four uniformed local cops, riot policeman

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The Pain of Taiji

It has been over a week since I left Taiji and The Cove.

I have been wracked with mixed feelings since I was in Taiji.. I SO wanted the boats to come back empty handed. That is even better than them not going out at all, because it means that they have wasted their time, effort and fuel money.

At the same time, I felt that perhaps it was a waste if I was there and nothing happened anyway… I mean why bother going all the way down to Taiji and watching a dozen horrible little boats go out to sea and come back again??

When I left Taiji, it felt like I was deserting the rest of the guys. Since returning to Yokohama, I have watched Facebook, and now twitter, every morning to make sure that the boats either stayed in port, or came back empty, and every morning they have.

I learned in Tohoku that every little bit of help really does make a difference, that when good people work together for a common goal, the total is more than the sum of the parts, and that even when you think you are doing nothing, just by being there you can help people to achieve great things. Sometimes it is hard to remember what you have learned.

Today the Dolphin Hunters were Successful.
A pod of bottlenose dolphins were captured and slaughtered. Except for one, who after having to watch and hear her ( or his ) family murdered will be sold into a life of slavery at a marine park somewhere. Instead of swimming wild and free, this poor soul is now condemned to a life of confinement in a small pool. A life of performing tricks for food, or being constantly molested by visitors who want to get their money’s worth.

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Photo from a previous dolphin killing.

My feelings of impotence have suddenly slipped into insignificance. It has not been a good week.
Somewhere, the Japanese government has found 27 million US dollars to provide security for a whaling industry which cannot support itself. Apparently it is not in Japans best interest to give in to Sea Shepherd. It has been mentioned that this is a slap in the face for those who donated money to the earthquake relief. I can understand that. My family and I donated significant money to the relief effort. My wife and I both donated a significant amount of personal time and effort to the people of Tohoku.

I feel slapped.

We will continue to help and love the people of Japan. I just wish that the Japanese government would do the same. I wish they would stop supporting unsupportable industries.

I wish they would leave the dolphins and whales alone. I wish they would stop shark finning… I didn’t think they shark finned, although I should not be surprised. I saw first hand a pile of shark fins on the wharf, and you can say what you like, the only shark carcass on the dock was still intact.

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Shark fins

The third heartbreak this week was seeing the heart wrenching video of Orcas being captured at the cove in 1997. How people can drag such a majestic animal from the water and throw it on the back of a truck is beyond me. All 5 of the Orcas sold to marine parks have since died.

I will try to post a link here, but not sure if it will work. It is tough viewing, but please watch it with the sound up… The cries of these poor beautiful creatures is so haunting…
If the link doesn’t work, just search orca Taiji on YouTube….
Orca pod destroyed in Taiji

Lastly I need to thank my beautiful wife. It cannot be easy to let your husband go and sit looking at the ocean surrounded by beautiful girls. I have become far more active recently… In honesty I was actively inactive not so long ago… Thank you Mandy for understanding my need to stand up, and good luck with your animal welfare volunteering this weekend.

For the Oceans
Seawooluf

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WTF?

– Nico is a Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian –

Today was hard work and a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Started at o-dark-hundred again, with the trip to our vantage point over the boat harbor before sunrise. Another beautiful sunrise, however it was totally ruined by the sight of the twelve banger boats being led through the harbor mouth by the Harpoon boat.

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By 6:30, we had noticed four of the boats were close together in what seemed to be a driving formation. Soon we could see the spray from the pod of dolphins they were chasing. Once we saw the white spray from the pod that was being chased, it was obvious that this was not going to be a good day.

As a fifth boat joined the drive, Rosie and the three new Cove Guardians headed to a different location to get a better view of the drive as it entered the cove ( like I am an old hand hand, now that I am on my second day……..).

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Marley, Adrianne, Carissa and Rosie.

For the next couple of hours an elaborate game of cat and mouse… Or Dolphin and murdering bastard.. was played out. The banger boats would start to drive the pod, and then they would stop, after having obviously lost the dolphins. A few minutes later smoke would billow from the stacks, as the boats powered after the dolphins. Gradually all of the banger boats joined the drive. From time to time we could make out the white water of the pod, but as the wind got up and the boats got further out, it became more difficult to tell where the pod was.

Around 9:30 all twelve boats were lined up, but a lot further out than they had been. We had not seen the pod clearly for almost a hour, and the boats did not seem to be moving. They were obviously still near the pod, or else they would have dispersed. It was a tense time as we waited to see what was going on, hoping against hope that the pod had escaped. None of the experienced watchers had seen this behavior before, and we had to wonder whether it was some new tactic, or whether the Dolphins had eluded the Hunters.

Eventually the boats powered up again and headed toward us. For a little while it was unclear as to whether the boats were coming in or driving the pod again. Eventually it became obvious that they had given up and were headed to shore. Empty handed. Cool. Now all we had to worry about was the harpoon boat.

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Banger boats returning to port empty handed. Noice.

Around midday the harpoon vessel returned to port, and like the banger boats it was empty… A good day. I stayed at our vantage point to ensure that the boat was indeed empty, and then headed down to docks to pay my respects to the crew as they came ashore. The girls were already waiting for them, having returned from their vantage point, via the dolphin resort. It seemed that these big tough dolphin hunters were scared of four girls with cameras, and had called the police, to make sure that the Big Scary Cove Guardians didn’t hurt them as they departed their vessel.

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Please make them stop Mr Policeman. I am not allowed to shoot them, so it is very scary for me…

The police came and had a word to the ladies, but it was obvious that their heart wasnt in it…

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Come on guys, you know those murdering bastards are really purse carrying Nancy boys at heart… Play nice

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Arrival

0420: Why am I sleeping on the floor and where the hell am I?

It took a few moments to realize that Just on 3 hours ago I had arrived in Taiji after a 9 hour plus drive through rain and horrible traffic. Due to a typhoon on Tuesday, the trains were still not running to where I needed to go, so driving seemed the best option. On the eve of a public holiday. Hmmm

Anyhow, got my stuff together, water bottle, cameras, binoculars, snacks and headed into KiiKatsuura to meet the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian team leader for 0500. Rosie is a passionate South African who, after spending time in Antarctica and Namibia has put her hand up to lead the Cove Guardians for a significant amount of the 7 month Dolphin slaughter season.

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Taiji harbor at dawn

Each morning before sunrise, Rosie heads to the waterfront to see what the hunters are up to, to count the boats that go out to sea and to bear witness to this cruel and heartless act. From her vantage point she can see almost forever, but it is not far enough to follow the boats and as they cross the horizon at various headings, the waiting starts. The ideal end to the morning is to see the boats return over the horizon and head back to port in ones and twos. That means that they are not herding and driving a pod of wild dolphins into the capture and killing coves. As luck had it, that was what were able to watch today, as all the ‘banger boats’ came in individually and the harpoon vessel which has been accompanying them came home empty handed.

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harpoon vessel. This thing is just plain evil

The term banger boats comes from the hunters method of herding the dolphin pods by banging on steel poles which are lowered into the water. With the boats in formation, the noise created by the steel poles becomes a wall of sound which the dolphins run away from. Unfortunately the hunters direct the wall to force them to run to the cove.

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Banger boats departing Taiji

I will go into more detail on what happens once the Dolphins are in the cove in a future post. It is not for the faint of heart. I am hoping my description will be second-hand, and there will be no slaughter while I am here.

Monday night, my son Jack asked if he could donate his pocket money to Sea Shepherd to help. Man, kids can make you so proud sometimes. I explained to him that he was doing something far better than donating his pocket money. By understanding the importance of this, and supporting me, rather than being upset that I would be away for a few weekends over the coming months he was donating his Dad to Sea Shepherd, which would be far more important than the few dollars he would be able to put to the cause. He hadn’t complained once about me going away, I did sit down with him and make sure that he was ok with me being away. He already misses a lot of me due to work commitments, and we both treasure our time together. Together we will try to bring awareness to the Japanese people of the atrocities being perpetrated upon Dolphins and Whales.

After the boats came in, we spent some time checking up on some of the captive animals around Taiji. This was very sad, to see broken spirits in such graceful bodies. They really are their own worst enemies.. They are so beautiful to watch, and that facial shape that looks like a smile even under the greatest duress,
.. It is easy to see how people can look past the quality of life and just see a beautiful animal.

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Captive dolphin in Taiji. This guy hardly moves all day and is obviously unwell. However, nobody at the dolphin resort will admit it, even though they have had to tube feed him (or her?)

Dolphins are intensely Intelligent, family oriented beings. They really are not so much different than us. I still believe in the line from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy… Humans think that they are the smartest animals on earth because they have built so many buildings and developed the land, while dolphins just play around in the ocean all day – Dolphins know they are the most intelligent, for exactly the same reason.

Keeping these animals in captivity is just plain wrong. For me, one of the biggest tragedies is the admission that not so long ago, I would have willingly handed over the money to swim with these poor animals. And I would have enjoyed it.

Please look in your heart and take the pledge as I have to not support this industry.

Ps – I have always been proud of the time I spent working at sea world on the Gold Coast… Until now.

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Changing directions

Different Directions

Those who followed my Ishinomaki blog will already know that I am not great with words, but there will hopefully be new readers on this blog so I will reiterate my apologies over the lack of skill with which I present my thoughts and feelings. I am no wordsmith, and although I now have a little skill at blogging, I am still no writer.

That said, I will try to convey the day to day life of a Cove Guardian honestly and from the heart.
If you would like to check out my previous blog, from our Tsunami relief efforts in Ishinomaki it is at http://www.ishinomakiwithpeaceboat.wordpress.com

I also need to say right from the outset that I am going to Taiji as a supporter of Sea Shepherd. I am not an employee, and in no way may my words be construed as the thoughts, feelings or opinions of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society or it’s leadership.

I have never been an activist. You could say I have spent my life as an inactivist. I have always had a deep love for the ocean and sea life, engendered by my Father and Grandfather from a very early age with Surf Fishing off the Ninety mile beach in Gippsland, Victoria. When my buddy Troy and I became scuba divers in our late teens, the desire to drag fish out of the ocean was replaced by a deeper desire to go down into the ocean and interact with them in their natural environment. This just seemed to make sense.

I have had some amazing experiences in the ocean. Foremost amongst my favorites have always been interacting with, or viewing wild animals in their natural environment. I have swam with wild Dolphins off Rockingham, sailboarded and sailed Hobie cats alongside Dolphins in the Hastings River, Stood waist deep in water off Yardie Creek surrounded by reef sharks, dived with a variety of sharks, and watched Dolphins surfing many times along the Mid North Coast. Watching these magnificent creatures has always brought me a sense of peace and wellbeing. Whenever I see Dolphins, it is a good day.

When I heard of The Cove, like many other people I reacted with disbelief and disgust. Sadly, I must admit that these feelings passed as I allowed myself to forget the stories I had heard. Watching the movie was one of those things I would do one day. Having watched The Cove, I urge everybody to find a copy an d watch it.

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For those who do not know, The Cove, filmed in Taiji, documents the brutal slaughter of thousands of dolphins every year in Japan, and the reasons why Japanese people should be outraged, regardless of their feelings on the killings.

Why do we let ourselves turn a blind eye to injustice and cruelty. Is it too hard? Are we afraid to question people, afraid of what they say will or do, or are we afraid of ourselves? I donated to Greenpeace. As a family we sponsor a few World Vision kids. I support Sea Shepherd. I always give the Red Cross and the Salvos a few bucks… Surely I am doing my bit.

Sound familiar?

Not long ago I was moved to get off my arse and help out with the Tsunami relief efforts here in Japan. One of the slogans that I saw on a website or T-Shirt that really hit home for me was “Who would come if it happened to you”. This is something we all need to consider. It is so easy to sit back and let somebody else do the work. But who would come if it happened to you

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On September 1 I received an update from Sea Shepherd that the Taiji Slaughter was on again. I was shocked and devastated that this was allowed to continue. Surely once the world had been informed, then the game was up? Unfortunately no. The slaughter goes on.

I must add what little I can to the effort to stop this slaughter. I learned in Ishinomaki that great things can be achieved by lots of people doing little things. For this reason, and if I am honest, to assuage my personal guilt for supporting the captive dolphin industry in the past, I am heading to Taiji this coming weekend for the first of what I hope will be numerous weekends, standing with the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians to bring the worlds attention to this needless and cruel slaughter.

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Start

Sorry this was placed by the software and I cannot delete it with this iPad app

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