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Earth Island News


Campaign to Save Japan Dolphins Enters Critical Phase


The ongoing Earth Island campaign to stop the largest slaughter of dolphins in the world is entering a critical phase.

Sadly, dolphins are still being killed in Taiji, Japan, despite the global response to The Cove documentary and the non-stop efforts of EII. When Ric O’Barry returned to Taiji last September at the start of the hunting season, the dolphin killers did not put out to sea for two weeks. At the end of September, EII volunteers watched amazed as the fishermen released a hundred bottlenose dolphins back to the sea, rather than butcher them for meat as usual.

But apparently this was all for show. The fishermen were still herding pilot whales, Risso’s dolphins, and other species to the cove depicted in the movie. The inlet still was stained red with blood again and again.

Although the slaughter of some dolphins continues, EII efforts have led to fewer dolphins being killed this year. More importantly, news stories are being published in Japan, for the first time, about the dolphin slaughter and about the dangers posed by the mercury contamination of dolphin and whale meat. The fight to protect dolphins – all the dolphins – continues.

A recent news item, for example, circulated by the Kyodo News Service, documents that the people of Taiji have ten times the level of mercury in their bodies than do the average Japanese. Dr. Tetsuya Endo of the University of Hokkaido obtained hair samples from Taiji citizens to test the mercury levels. Dr. Endo is calling for ”efforts to curb consumption of whale meat which is highly contaminated with mercury.“

It was Earth Island and its Save Japan Dolphins campaign that brought the mercury contamination issue to widespread public attention. Earth Island’s efforts to get the media in Japan to break their silence are finally paying off. As more stories appear, more reporters and editors feel confident in investigating further.

The Save Japan Dolphins campaign will be returning to Japan shortly to screen The Cove. The hope is that the group can make a major difference and end the dolphin killing before another season can begin. When The Cove has been screened for ordinary Japanese audiences, as it was last October and November, they have been shocked and outraged that their government is allowing the dolphin slaughter to continue. Screening The Cove to new audiences and getting copies of the DVD into the hands of decision-makers and the media will hopefully make the dolphin hunt politically and morally untenable for the Japanese government.

The popularity and critical acclaim of The Cove is giving a big boost to efforts to stop the dolphin hunt. In February, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. The nomination alone is already boosting traffic to, and the campaign’s momentum will only increase if the film wins an Oscar. We are keeping our fingers (and flippers) crossed.

Mark J. Palmer

Take Action:
At you can get a copy of The Cove DVD if you donate $100. You can also find out about our campaign, get updates from our blog, and sign our online petition. Watch the Oscars on March 7 to check out the Best Documentary nominees and root for The Cove.


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