Within 12 days of the dolphin hunt season opening in Taiji, Japan, activists report that it has been an horrific few days for pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins driven into the Cove.
Activists say that Taiji fishermen are on a relentless campaign this season in the small fishing village on the coast of Japan made famous by the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove. Over the last few days, eyewitness reports tell of hunts taking place with a level of brutality that has left many dolphin advocates stunned and speechless.
It began last Thursday when a pod of between 24-26 pilot whales were driven into the inlet and held overnight. The next day, three were selected for captivity (including a mother and calf), and the remainder were slaughtered for meat. Of the three whales taken captive and held in sea pens, one animal says Sea Shepherd is unaccounted for and the mother and calf are ailing.
Two hours ago Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) Cove Guardians also reported:
Vets/trainers were at Taiji harbor pens most of today tending to mother pilot whale who clings to life as her baby watches. These two pilot whales were captured a few days ago and placed in a small captivity pen. They are both sunburned and not eating. The baby has been spyhopping continuously as mother circles around while floating on her side. We will continue to monitor her condition and post updates.
Heartbreaking video of the sick pilot whale was captured by Martyn Stewart, a sound recordist currently in Taiji documenting the hunts. "This beautiful animal was taken from the ocean with its family and put into the dolphin slave trade to be taught to do tricks and jump hoops. Its family was brutally killed. His two other siblings live in the pen with him and watch him suffer, ready to die," Stewart said.
Immediately after the slaughter of the pilot whales, drive boats once again left the harbor to hunt for dolphins. Thirteen bottlenose were quickly driven into the cove and netted off before fishermen headed back out to sea to drive in the remainder of the pod. After an epic 5 hour fight and with the aid of the Japanese Coast Guard, the exhausted dolphins which refused to enter the cove, were netted at sea where two more were transferred to join the existing pod of 13 in the cove. The remainder of the pod was then released.
On Sep. 10, as trainers placed nine of the fifteen dolphins into slings and took them to sea pens to be trained and sold, the drive boats once more headed out to sea to hunt for more dolphins. Six dolphins were still currently being held in the cove.
The boats soon located yet another pod of bottlenose dolphins, some possibly recaptures of the dolphins released the day before. Several animals were driven into the cove to swell numbers to an estimated 30 mammals. These dolphins, like their counterparts, were also held overnight.
Yesterday afternoon, as drive boats headed out to sea to hunt further dolphins, fishermen and trainers in skiffs, went to the cove to tackle the 30 dolphins held over from the previous two hunts. Several of the dolphins were females with calves.
The eyewitness reports that followed, issued by Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians, Save Japans Dolphins (SJD) Cove Monitors and Martyn Stewart, were both haunting and sickening.
As fishermen went in to wrestle away an additional 12 dolphins for captivity, SJD reported:
Dolphins giving up a fight while being corralled into the back of the cove. Fisherman ramming them with their boats and motors....
Stewart then added:
The abuse they are using on these dolphins is criminal, the boat propellers are thrusted into the dolphins as they try to flee for some kind of safety. They are hungry and tired, if this were people there would be a lynch mob.
A short while later Stewart also spoke of a bottlenose mother and calf frantic in the cove:
There is a baby that has been separated from its mother and it is going absolutely crazy.
Finally, when it was all over, and fishermen and trainers were done with the selection process, the remaining dolphins were driven back out to sea. But it had all been too much for one poor bottlenose dolphin:
Stewart managed to capture some incredibly powerful and up close footage of the dolphin drive and the bottlenose dolphins captured in the cove over the past few days. Although age-restricted by YouTube due to complaints Stewart believes came from fishermen, the video can be viewed here.
Less than two weeks into the dolphin drive season which runs for six months from September through March, conservative estimates revealed by CetaBase.com show that over 74 dolphins comprising two different species have been driven into Taiji Cove. Twenty two were killed, 24 were taken into captivity, and the remainder were released.