Earth Island Reports
Save Japan Dolphins
Continued Vigilance Reduces Taiji Slaughter
Earth Island Institute’s Save Japan Dolphins Campaign, an arm of our International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP), continues its vigil at the notorious dolphin-killing cove in Taiji, Japan and the effort is achieving some real victories. Thanks to our constant monitoring of the dolphin hunt, the relationships we’ve built with Japanese activists, and the public education campaign to raise awareness about the high mercury levels in dolphin meat, the dolphin-hunting season is expected to be much shorter this year, and that will save the lives of scores of animals.
photo Tia Butt
IMMP has had volunteer observers in Taiji since the start of the hunting season on September 1. Cove Monitors have been posting daily updates at www.savejapandolphins.org to keep the world apprised of what’s happening there. Ric O’Barry, star of the Oscar-winning film The Cove, joined the team in January. O’Barry brought with him a potent new tool for our campaign – an iPad, which he used to stream real-time video of the hunts and to offer virtual tours of the inhumane Taiji Whale Museum.
O’Barry and the rest of the IMMP team have sought to avoid confrontations with the hunters and local authorities.
They have focused their efforts on cultivating alliances with Japanese environmentalists and Taiji residents. This relationship building has been crucial to getting insider information about the hunts and to spreading the word about the dangers of eating mercury-contaminated whale and dolphin meat, a subject that is ignored by the Japanese government and media.
IMMP’s Japanese allies report that the demand for dolphin meat in Japanese markets has dropped considerably since the campaign started, especially with the opening of The Cove movie in Japan. (The documentary is now available on DVD in Japanese, and our campaign – along with Director Louie Psihoyos and the Oceanic Preservation Society, which made The Cove – has been distributing free copies.) The government has denied any problems with mercury-tainted meat, but Japanese consumers appear to be ignoring such false claims. In 2010, Japanese authorities stated whale meat sales were down by 15 percent, as approximately 5,000 tons of frozen excess meat sat in storage. In 2011, the tonnage in cold storage rose to 5,400 tons. Dolphin meat is often mislabeled and sold to Japanese consumers as “whale” meat.
It also appears that the Taiji hunts are slowing down. The season usually lasts through the end of March, and sometimes into April. Japanese sources report that the dolphin hunts may end by mid- to late-February this year, weeks earlier than usual, due to the lack of demand for dolphin meat. If so, it would mark the fifth straight year that the number of dolphins killed in Taiji has declined since the IMMP campaign started.
Even though the dolphin hunts are waning, they cannot stop soon enough for our Save Japan Dolphins Campaign. IMMP will continue our efforts – including fielding Cove Monitors, getting out the mercury facts to Japanese consumers, and working with the Japanese people – to put an end to the killing of dolphins and whales in Japan once and for all.
—Mark J. Palmer