Eyes open: a teenager’s thoughts on the cove and Japan Dolphins Day

In 2009, my eyes were already open to many of the existing issues and dangers stacked up against many species of cetaceans. I was digging into whaling issues, and studying how I could help be a force in ending the illegal slaughter of the great whales in the southern hemisphere-

But what I didn’t know was that one of the largest slaughters of marine mammals was taking place annually in a secret cove off Japan’s breath-taking coast- right under the world’s nose. I was clueless when it came to the dolphin slaughter in Taiji. Until I saw a film that would take my world and completely flip it on it’s head.

And that film was The Cove.

I could go on about this for ages, but I’ll try to keep it brief- The Cove follows dolphin trainer from the hit series ‘Flipper’ -turned dolphin advocate Ric O’Barry.


Through this film, my eyes were opened to the fact that captivity is not only archaic, unethical and simply illogical- but that it is also at the very roots of a horrific dolphin massacre.

Every year, starting September 1st, dolphins and porpoises are driven into a hidden cove off the coast of Taiji, where the most “attractive” are selected for shows and amusement parks.

After this, the remaining dolphins are sealed into the cove and left over night.

In the morning, the fishermen return to the cove with boats and spears to slaughter and collect the dolphins to bring to the butcher house. Where their highly-toxic mercury-laden meat will be carved, packaged and sold as food to the Japanese people- most of which will be intentionally mislabeled as “healthy” whale meat from the southern hemisphere.

An estimated 23,000 dolphins are slaughtered and butchered each year.

“Since The Cove came out, the fishermen have altered their killing methods. The fishermen pull dolphins underneath an array of plastic tarps (set up to prevent us from filming the slaughter). There, the fishermen push a sharp metal spike into the dolphins’ necks just behind the blowholes, which is supposed to sever the spinal cord and produce an instant “humane” death. In fact, we have film footage from hidden cameras that show the dolphins thrashing for minutes on end in agony. The fishermen even push wooden corks into the wounds to prevent spilling blood into the Cove, again to prevent us from filming blood-red waters”


Seeing this film- seeing this slaughter unfold before my eyes changed me. I was a fourteen year old, scared for life- and I was going to do everything I possibly could to help end this.

And here I am today. Four years later, and still fighting.

Ric O’Barry is and has always been, a massive inspiration to me. If ever I find myself despairing over how not enough has changed, and how seemingly impossible a task stopping this slaughter seems to be at times, I just pop The Cove into my DVD player or laptop, and watch that epic, harrowing scene, when Ric crashes an IWC (international whaling commission) wielding a TV screen playing the dolphin massacre on repeat. It always gives me more than enough inspiration and awe to propel myself onward with- realizing that every phone call to the embassy, every class I speak with, every student I email- it adds to the massive push to end this unethical practice.

It won’t be just one of us who brings an end to this- it will be all of us or it won’t end at all.

The slaughter at the cove can and will continue unless we- as in, all of us- every last one of us -decide that it’s not going to happen.

We have been reporting from Taiji regularly since 2003, and the most shocking aspect of the dolphin drive hunt is the active role that some dolphinariums play in sustaining the hunt. Dolphinariums are always looking for ways to obtain more dolphins. Many times, the fishermen of Taiji will drive a large school of bottlenose dolphins into the killing cove, and dolphin trainers and marine mammal veterinarians flock to the scene to seek out the best-looking dolphins for their display facilities. By doing business with the dolphin killers, they are helping to maintain the dolphin drive hunts. A live dolphin sold to a dolphinarium brings in a much higher profit than does a dead dolphin sold as meat, which brings in about $600. In Taiji, live bottlenose dolphins have been sold for as much as $300,000 each. The dolphin massacres in Japan will likely continue for as long as members of the international dolphin display industry reward the fishermen with thousands of dollars for animals that are deemed suitable for commercial exploitation in captivity. Dolphinariums that work together with the Japanese dolphin killers are a major reason that the dolphin massacres are still going on.

(from Save Japan Dolphins website)

If every one of us make the conscious decision not to buy the ticket to a marine park, to help spread the word about the cove and about the toxicity of dolphin meat? This slaughter will end. It will be inevitable.

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to talk with Ric O’Barry on several occasions, and I have no doubt that this amazing project to educate the public and save these dolphins will work if we all pull together and speak out as one voice.

If you haven’t already, please visit his campaign site: www.japandolphinsday.net and learn more about what you can do to help end this.

You are a vital piece to this puzzle- we can’t stop this tragic slaughter without you.

I’m happy to be an example to how this is possible- I’m just one teenager, typing up a storm and doing my best to help get the word out among students- and I’ve literally had people email me and tell me that they’ve returned their season passes to SeaWorld, or other marine parks because of what they have learned at Blue Freedom.

In fact, most of our team is made up of teens and young adults- each with passion and talent, and each with a voice to lend to this cause.

One voice can and will make a huge difference.

Your voice can make a huge difference.

Will you use yours?

Join: Japan Dolphins Day