The Cove Runs Red Again

By Tim Burns
Cove Monitor
Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project

Today started off the same as everyday between September and March in Taiji.  Our Dolphin Project’ volunteer Cove Monitors woke early, checked the weather report, and prayed for wind.  The four of us, Dekin, Becca, Heather and myself, piled in the car for the 15min drive to the banger boats’ harbor in Taiji.  As we pulled around the corner and saw that they were already heading out of the harbor, we all groaned.   The water was perfectly flat as the banger boats fanned out in search of dolphins.

By about 7:30 we noticed the undeniable shape on the horizon of 7 banger boats in drive formation heading our way.   At about a mile we could make out the dolphin pod between the boats being pushed north towards the cove.  It’s unclear if the dolphin hunters then broke the pod into a smaller pod intentionally or if some got away.  30 striped dolphins were in the notorious Cove by 9am.

We moved up to Takababe Mountain, overlooking the Cove, to get a better vantage point of what was happening.   Immediately we noticed something different.  There were a lot more police and Town of Taiji officials.  Everyone was a bit taken by it, but no time to figure it out; we needed to get into position to document what was happening.

The skiffs came back into the killing Cove loaded with people.  As the boats back down on the dolphins, the scared and exhausted succumbed to the will of the hunters and glided under the tarps, never to be seen alive again.  Within 30 minutes all the yelling and tail slapping halts.

As the water turns red from large amounts of blood, the first skiff finally comes out weighed down with the bodies of the formally free-swimming striped dolphins.  They cover them with tarps to hide them from our view.  A second boat follows closely behind also covering the bodies.  By now Takababe Mountain is silent.  No one is talking; all are staring at the boats as they head around the point to the harbor.  Nobody knows what to say at this point, and all feel helpless.    Dekin, Becca, Heather and myself walk down the mountain to our car with a police escort.  Still not understanding why we are being given so much attention today, we decide it is best to get in our car and head over to the harbor parking lot to document the boats bringing the bodies back to the Fishermen’s Union, where the slaughterhouse is located.

As we drive into town we notice there is some kind of a marathon event happening.  The streets are lined with fans cheering runners on.  It dawns on us that all the extra police and Town of Taiji officials were watching us to make sure no one would be getting out of hand while they had all these people in town for the event.  I can’t help but think that an extra 500 people were in Taiji today, and not one knows what was happening a quarter mile away.  All were happy and cheering, waving flags and having a grand time.

30 striped dolphins will never swim a mile again.  30 striped dolphins will never take another breath.  All hidden from the Japanese people participating in the race.

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About Ric O'Barry

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Ric O’Barry, Dolphin Project Founder & Director has worked on both sides of the captive dolphin issue, making him an invaluable asset in the efforts to end exploitation. He worked for 10 years within the dolphin captivity industry, and has spent the past 40 working against it.

In the 1960s, O’Barry was employed by the Miami Seaquarium, where he captured and trained dolphins, including the five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular American TV-series of the same name. He also trained Hugo, the first orca kept in captivity east of the Mississippi. When Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper most of the time, died in his arms, O’Barry realized that capturing dolphins and training them to perform silly tricks is simply wrong.

From that moment on, O’Barry knew what he must do with his life. On the first Earth Day, 1970, he launched a searing campaign against the multi-billion dollar dolphin captivity industry and has been going at it ever since.

Over the past 40 years, Ric O’Barry has rescued and rehabilitated dolphins in many countries around the world, including Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas Islands and the United States. He is a leading voice in the fight to end brutal dolphin hunts in Japan, the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, and wherever else they occur.

O’Barry has been recognized by many national and international entities for his dedicated efforts, such as being voted Huffington Post’s 2010 Most Influential Green Game Changer, and being listed on O Magazine’s 2010 Power List – Men We Admire for his “Power of Passion.” O’Barry received an Environmental Achievement Award, presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program. He has done countless interviews with such prestigious news programs as Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, the Mike Huckabee Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

His book Behind the Dolphin Smile was published in 1989; a second book, To Free A Dolphin was published in September 2000. Both of them are about his work and dedication. He is the star of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove and the Animal Planet television series Blood Dolphin$.

Author: Ric O'Barry


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