Monday, January 2, 2012

The True History of Actions to Save Dolphins at Taiji

Friday, September 16, 2011
Chronology of Efforts to End Dolphin Slaughter at Taiji

by Hardy Jones

Photo by Dieter Hagmann

This posting attempts to cover only events at Taiji, deliberately omitting what occurred at Iki and Izu during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I welcome any additions or corrections by email.

Admittedly this chronology is heavy in references to BlueVoice due to the fact that I am most familiar with our work. Again, I invite additions and corrections from informed sources.

In 1980 Howard Hall and Hardy Jones, while en route to Iki Island to film a dolphin slaughter, learned of the capture of 200 melon-headed whales (actually a species of dolphin) at Taiji, Japan. They brought their cameras to Taiji and were able to effect the release of all the melon-heads.

In 1999 the massacre of a group of bottlenose dolphins at Futo came to the attention of CBS News. Hardy Jones was interviewed on the subject and seeing the ghastly footage decided to return to Japan to see what might be done to end the dolphin killing.

In 2001 Hardy met Sakae Hemmi, of Japan’s Elsa Nature Conservancy, and the two worked together at Taiji and Futo to end the dolphin killing. They returned each year, in some years accompanied by photographer Larry Curtis, during dolphin hunting season with Hardy filming and Sakae gathering data.

During the early 2000s Environmental Investigation Agency sent representatives to Taiji who were treated very roughly.

In 2002 Hardy’s film, When Dolphins Cry, premiered on National Geographic Channels worldwide. It portrayed the killing of dolphins at Taiji and the story of the conversion of Izumi Ishii from dolphin hunter to dolphin watch leader.

In 2003 representatives of Sea Shepherd went to Taiji. Two of their members cut nets holding dolphins in Hatagajiri Bay. Whether any dolphins escaped is an open question. But the act brought both international news coverage and heightened security at the killing cove.

2003 was also the first year of Ric O’Barry’s efforts to end the killing of dolphins at Taiji. He has returned to Taiji for extended periods each year since and later starred in the film The Cove.

In 2005 PBS broadcast Hardy Jones’ The Dolphin Defender, a film that included both the story of the slaughter of dolphins at Taiji and the beginning of dolphin watching at Futo.

During much of the first decade of the 2000s WDCS supported the work of BlueVoice in Japan and conducted outreach programs elsewhere in Japan to educate the Japanese public about the dolphin slaughter and the dangers of consuming mercury laden dolphin meat.

During the years 2007, 08, 09, 10 and 2011 German journalist Dieter Hagmann visited Taiji and brought back extraordinary footage of the brutality of the dolphins slaughter. His work appeared in TV-Stations: ARD, ZDF. Newspapers: SUN (British), Bild (German), Aftonbladet (Sweden), Associated Press (Japan), Zeeburg Nieuws (Netherland) Press Agencies: PRNewswire, asiaprnews, Reuters, CNW, DPA with many online publications.

Since 2006 BlueVoice, in conjunction with Elsa Nature Conservancy, has been conducting tests of dolphin meat for mercury and organic pollutants such as PCBs. Results have shown high to exceptionally high levels of these contaminants. Tests also showed extremely high levels of mercury in persons who consumed dolphin meat.

In 2007 surfing legend Dave Rastovich along with film star Hayden Pantierre paddled surf boards into Hatagajiri Bay and brought international attention to the situation at Taiji.

At roughly this time, a film crew organized by Louie Psihoyos began work on a film centered around Ric O’Barry and his crusade to stop the killing at Taiji. The result would be a documentary film named “The Cove.”

In 2008 a Japanese journalist, Hiroshi Hasegawa, received data developed by Elsa and BlueVoice that documented high levels of mercury in four dolphin-eating Taiji citizens. Hasegawa then conducted additional testing that found even higher numbers for mercury among the dolphin-eating population. The results were published in AERA, a major Japanese magazine. His article spurred the National Institute for Minamata Disease to propose testing citizens of Taiji for mercury. The tests showed that citizens of the town had very high levels of mercury but claimed they found no impact on health. That conclusion has been widely disparaged by international experts.

In 2010 the Psihoyos film, The Cove, won film festival after film festival culminating in winning an Academy Award. This film brought a tsunami of protest against the practice of killing dolphins and raised the issue around the world. Psihoyos and his cohorts have continued their efforts in Japan to end the dolphin slaughter and The Cove continues to reach audiences worldwide.

During the 2010 – 11 hunting season Sea Shepherd maintained a group of activists at Taiji known as the Cove Guardians. They provided web reporting throughout the entire period of the hunt.

In 2011 BlueVoice sponsored tests conducted by Elsa Nature Conservancy of dolphin meat from Okinawa and Taiji. The tests showed elevated levels of mercury and PCBs. The tests results have been widely disseminated in Japan.

At the beginning of the 2011 – 2012 dolphin hunting season Ric O’Barry organized a prayer vigil at Taiji and, along with associates such as Leilani Munter, provided information on the hunt during September.

Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians also returned to Taiji and are reporting from the scene.

Despite these extensive efforts the hunt and slaughter continues.