Breaking: First Lives Lost as Risso’s Dolphins Killed in Taiji

In an eerie resemblance of last year, almost to the day, the dolphins’ luck ran out when a pod of Risso’s were driven into the cove and slaughtered.

After hours of hunting, our hopes were high that it would be another ‘blue cove’ day. While there were previous drives since the 2016/17 season opened on September 1, the dolphins had managed to escape the hunters. Not so today.

Risso's dolphins huddle together after being driven in

Risso’s dolphins huddle together after being driven in

Twelve hunting boats left at 5:30 a.m. Three and-a-half-hours later, at 9:10 a.m., I saw nine boats in formation, facing north. It took less than 15 minutes for the boats to reach the nets of the harbor. I ran to the sea wall, where I was able to witness a beautiful pod of Risso’s dolphins being pushed into the cove.” ~ Daniela Moreno, Dolphin Project Cove Monitor

Risso's dolphins awaiting slaughter

Risso’s dolphins awaiting slaughter

As Dolphin Project live streamed from the cove, the world watched in real time as this once-robust pod of approximately 19 dolphins were, one-by-one, taken out, their lifeless bodies hidden underneath blue and gray tarps. The remaining Risso’s watched as the skiffs went by, dragging their dead pod members. A total of seven skiffs went in and out of the cove, and by 12:00 p.m., the slaughter was complete.

Dead Risso's dolphins hidden underneath tarps

Dead Risso’s dolphins hidden underneath tarps

Having witnessed the dolphin slaughter for 14 years, multiple times per year, you’d think I would be desensitized to this. And yet, I am not. Each kill feels like the first.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project

The hunters stopped to have lunch, and for the next 60 minutes, four juvenile dolphins were observed swimming in-between the nets. No adult pod members were visible as they had likely all been slaughtered.

One hour later, the hunters returned, along with three banger boats. Suddenly the remaining nets were pulled back, and the boats proceeded to push the dolphins back out to sea.

Juvenile Risso's being released without the rest of the pod

Juvenile Risso’s being released without the rest of the pod

Dolphins under 'ownership' of ISANA fisherman's association

Dolphins under ‘ownership’ of ISANA fisherman’s association

While this might seem to be a compassionate act, this couldn’t be further from the truth. With their smaller bodies, hunters don’t want to “waste” their quotas killing the youngsters, thus, they are released. However, in the absence of the support, protection and guidance from their elder pod members, their chances of survival are slim at best.

In past years, carcasses of dolphins have been witnessed by Dolphin Project Cove Monitors, these untold numbers never counted against Taiji’s quotas.

In total, approximately 19 Risso’s dolphins were driven into the cove, of which 15 were slaughtered and four juveniles were released.

It was a very sad day in Taiji, with the season only getting underway.



Dolphin Project will be on the ground in Taiji during the entire killing season, live streaming, blogging and disseminating information for the world to see. Your support has never been more crucial and is greatly appreciated.

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Interested in joining us in Taiji? Learn about becoming a Dolphin Project Cove Monitor and submit your application, free of charge.

Ric O'Barry Dolphin Project Cove Monitors at The Cove



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Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is a non-profit charitable organization, dedicated to the welfare and protection of dolphins worldwide. Founded by Richard (Ric) O’Barry on Earth Day, April 22, 1970, the mission of the Dolphin Project is to end dolphin exploitation and slaughter, as dolphins are routinely captured, harassed, slaughtered and sold into captivity around the world – all in the name of profit.

Every year from approximately September 1 to March 1, a notoriously cruel hunt of some of the most sentient and sensitive creatures on the planet takes place in Taiji, Japan, made famous by the 2009 Academy award-winning movie “The Cove.” During this period, fisherman, or more appropriately, dolphin hunters, “drive” the mammals to their capture or deaths via means of physical violence and acoustic torture.

Dolphin Project is the only organization to have been on the ground in Taiji since 2003. We have revolutionized live streaming and broadcast throughout the entire season.

Dolphin Project works not only to halt these slaughters but also to rehabilitate captive dolphins, investigate and advocate for economic alternatives to dolphin slaughter exploitation and to put a permanent end to dolphin captivity.  This work has been chronicled in films such as, ‘A Fall From Freedom,’ the Oscar-winning documentary ‘The Cove,’ and in the Animal Planet mini-series, ‘Blood Dolphin$.’

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About Cara Sands

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It might be true that we don't recall many moments from our early years. However, Cara's first memory of a dolphin had her begging her parents to ask the trainer to let the dolphin go! The problem with captivity was evident to her, even as a 4 year-old child.

A writer by trade, Cara has researched, investigated and documented dolphins suffering in captivity. From documenting dolphins incarcerated in buildings, cut-off from fresh air, sunlight and normal socialization to researching cases of animals imprisoned in solitary confinement, Cara is a dedicated dolphin welfare advocate.

It is her belief that education equals empowerment. The more information shared, the better our choices and knowledge of how to act as a positive and respectful voice for dolphins across the world.

Cara is based out of Canada and makes time whenever possible to observe dolphins in their natural environments. She is writing her first fiction novel but knowing her, the marine world will play a prominent role in her book!

"The use of animals for entertainment is nothing more than an abuse of dominance. Some of the most sentient species on the planet have been exploited to incomprehensible levels, all due to their inherent benevolence. Ironic, considering that we turn to the abused themselves for displays of humanity."
~ Cara Sands

Author: Cara Sands


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