Mobilizing to Stop the Slaughter of Japan’s Dolphins and Whales

Earth Island News

Since January’s Sundance Film Festival, Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) has been a huge whirl of energy. We have organized special events, press conferences, and grassroots public education outreach all tied to the documentary about our work for Japan’s dolphins, The Cove. The movie – which opened in US movie theaters in August, and in Europe in September – features Earth Island’s Ric O’Barry [see “Reluctant Warrior”], and has been an invaluable tool for raising awareness about the captivity and killing of dolphins.

IMMP and its Save Japan Dolphins Coalition have been working in the United States, Europe, and Japan to build a tsunami of opposition against marine mammal killings. In the United States, IMMP coordinated the efforts of hundreds of volunteers in cities and towns across the country to hand out thousands of special postcards to theatergoers. The postcards directed moviegoers to visit our Web site and take action for the dolphins.

In Japan, IMMP has achieved a major breakthrough by finally getting the Japanese media to cover the dolphin killing in Taiji, a small fishing village in the south of the country. Prior to IMMP’s work, the Japanese media had colluded with the Japanese Fisheries Agency to ignore and suppress information about the dolphin kill. Now, a large number of stories have appeared in Japanese media for the first time, largely due to The Cove. IMMP sponsored the first screening of The Cove in Japan to Japanese and foreign media representatives at a standing-room-only showing of the film at the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents’ Club on September 25. The Tokyo International Film Festival, under pressure from Hollywood stars, screened The Cove for the public on October 21.

Throughout the fall, O’Barry traveled around Europe, the US, and Australia to promote the film. In October, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) gave O’Barry its Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala luncheon in New York. IMMP also sponsored several trips to Taiji over the past few months with members of the Save Japan Dolphins team, escorting half a dozen Japanese media outlets, as well as Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Australia 60 Minutes, Sky TV, and The London Telegraph.

Japanese media outlets also gave significant attention to IMMP’s successful efforts in July to have the city of Broome, Australia suspend its sister-city relations with Taiji. However, under tremendous pressure from Japan, the Broome Shire Council reversed itself two months later, restoring its sister-city relationship and apologizing to the people of Taiji. It is still too early to see how Broome’s reversal will affect the dolphin slaughter.

All of the nonstop campaigning appears to be paying off. In September, for the first time, fishermen in Taiji released 70 bottlenose dolphins after catching and retaining around 10 to 15 for aquariums. The Taiji fishermen are still killing pilot whales, but so far the numbers have been lower than in previous seasons. The brief halt in the dolphin killing is unprecedented. Although it is unclear how long this new “no-slaughter” policy will last, it’s apparent that IMMP’s presence in Taiji, combined with the massive media attention and outside pressure, is having a positive effect. As O’Barry points out to the media, the slaughtered pilot whales are dolphins.

The tentative signs of progress in Taiji prove that just having the issue discussed in public in Japan is a major breakthrough. That’s why IMMP is working with food safety, environmental, and pollution activists and organizations in Japan to bring the truth of the dolphin slaughter to the public’s attention. Because, in the end, the Japanese people – most of whom are unaware of the dolphin killing – are not to blame. To the contrary: The Japanese people must be the ones to bring this senseless slaughter to an end.

– Mark J. Palmer

Take Action

Please sign the petition calling for an end to the slaughter of Japan’s whales and dolphins. The petition is online at:

DVD copies of the film should be available soon. Check the Web site to order a copy and arrange a viewing for friends and family.

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