Gone But Not Forgotten – More Reflections from Taiji Cove
I recently returned to the United States from Japan, and while my body is now thousands of miles away from Taiji and the Cove, my thoughts remain with the dolphins and the daily horrors occurring there. The killings that took place on the last days of my visit haunt me, but it is in loving memory of those whose lives were lost or shattered that I share their tragic story.
During the early morning of Saturday, December 4th, a pod of over 100 migrating dolphins were ruthlessly hunted down and corralled into the Cove by Taiji fishermen. I watched from the shore as several of the dolphins got caught up in nets, their heads struggling desperately to come up for air, only to be pushed under by the fishermen trying to drown them. I can still hear the sounds of blowholes spouting rapidly in distress as many were forced to listen to the anguished cries of their family members being killed. And I’ll never forget the sight of a lone baby swimming in isolation from the others in search of his mother. Forty-three dolphins were slaughtered before the fishermen decided to call it a day and leave the others to await their gruesome fate the next morning. Their trauma and terror as they swam close together, entrapped all night in the cove, is unimaginable.
We rose before dawn on Sunday to be at the Cove before the fishermen. After daybreak, it soon became clear why some dolphins had been spared the day before. Accompanying the fishermen, a group of trainers had come to select dolphins for captivity. Witnessing the selection process was sickening, as five trainers would wrestle down each dolphin for harsh examination. They would even ride them to see how they responded. In the end, six dolphins had been chosen for a life of performance, never to be among their families again. For 36 others, death was their fate, and I listened and watched as they had stakes driven into their backs, and their bodies thrashed about violently in the waters for minutes on end.
Not all of the remaining dolphins were killed, with approximately 25 being released back to sea. As they swam away the baby was among them, lagging far behind and certain to die of starvation without his mother. I felt I should be grateful that their lives had been spared, but I thought only of the shock and suffering these sensitive beings had just endured. How would they ever recover, and what kind of lives would they be returning to?
While the story of these dolphins in the Cove is no different than the many thousands who have come before, and, sadly, for the multitude who will come after, stories like theirs must be told until the day when all dolphins can swim free from harm. Please help that day arrive by continuing to tell this story.