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Earth Island Reports

International Marine Mammal Project

Save Japan Dolphins Goes Global

International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) has been busy around the world in the past few months protecting dolphins and whales and their marine habitat.

Ric O’Barry, in particular, has been working to save dolphins in captivity. Ric brought 50 volunteers from eight countries to Tokyo for the September 1 start of the 2010 dolphin-hunting season. Ric and the Save Japan Dolphins team hosted a reception for Japanese activists and presented 1.7 million signatures to the American Embassy calling on President Obama to help stop the killing of dolphins.

In Taiji, the first dolphin hunts were focused on capturing animals. A few “show-quality” dolphins were taken from their families and sent to a life of imprisonment. The rest of the pod was then released. The relative calm ended in October with the killing of several pods of Risso’s dolphins. Earth Island and other organizations have monitors in Taiji to keep attention focused on the captures and killings there.

After dolphins are captured, where do they go? To marine “parks” around the world, including a planned dolphinarium at the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada. In late September, Ric joined the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) to protest the import of dolphins from Taiji for a proposed dolphinarium there. The four dolphins were sold for $300,000 each, a record price as far as we know, which shows the value of the dolphin slave trade. Despite encounters with hired thugs with pit bulls, Ric and Egyptian activists managed to obtain a decree blocking the further import of dolphins from drive hunts. The four Taiji dolphins, which were being kept in a swimming pool in their own filth, were transferred to a new tank in the desert. HEPCA continues to oppose the dolphinarium; Ric hopes that the four Taiji dolphins can be returned to Japan for rehabilitation. Ric and his son Lincoln filmed another segment for the Animal Planet series “Blood Dolphin$” and will soon be in Indonesia, seeking help for a number of captive dolphins kept by a traveling circus.

The IMMP team and our allies kept up the pressure on October 14 by conducting demonstrations at dozens of Japanese embassies and consulates around the world. In San Francisco, Earth Island activists hoisted a big inflatable dolphin in front of the Japanese consulate, while Ric himself led a hundred demonstrators in his hometown of Miami. Hardy demonstrators gathered in the rain in Washington, DC during a march to the Japanese Embassy led by the Animal Welfare Institute. The Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Care and Responsibility for Animals, and a number of other demonstrators joined IMMP staff in the Philippines. Kyoko Tanaka delivered 166 signatures on a petition to the Japanese government (including the notorious Japan Fisheries Agency, which promotes whaling and dolphin killing) calling for the end of the hunts. One hundred and fifty of the signatures were from people in the Wakayama Prefecture, where the town of Taiji is located. IMMP volunteers joined with the Ottawa Animal Defense League to protest in Canada. Toy dolphins spattered with “blood” lined the streets of Rotterdam and Jakarta.

And in Taiji itself racecar driver Leilani Münter, representing the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign, threw roses into the notorious Cove, only to have the local police object that the roses might pollute the waters. Leilani dutifully recovered the offending roses, but went on to post the whole episode online. Apparently, the blood of dolphins is acceptable pollution.

—Mark J. Palmer

   

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