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Sea Shepherd
Worldwide

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations.

Sea Shepherd is not verified as a 501(c)3 organization.

Latest News

Dec 19, 2014

Cove Guardians to Live Stream at ~1:30pm PT/4:30 ET as Pilot Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins Face Captivity or Slaughter

Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader Melissa Sehgal, Recently Denied Entry to Japan, to Call in Live During Streaming

Please Tune in at: http://www.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/livestream.html.

After a long and grueling drive, the pod was held overnight in the cove to await their fate After a long and grueling drive, the pod was held overnight in the cove to await their fate
Photo: Sea Shepherd
A large pod of approximately 40-45 adult and juvenile pilot whales and at least eight bottlenose dolphins, including a calf of just a few months old, was captured yesterday and has been held overnight in Taiji’s infamous killing cove. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Cove Guardians will live stream today at ~1:30pm PT/4:30pm ET as the cetaceans — who have already endured a long and grueling drive into Taiji Harbor and hours without food or shelter — face captive selection or slaughter.

Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader, Melissa Sehgal, who has spent four seasons and six months at a time in Taiji, will call in at approximately 3 pm PT today (8 am Japan time tomorrow) to speak to the Cove Guardians on the ground in Japan and viewers around the world during the live stream, which can be viewed on Sea Shepherd’s website here: http://www.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/livestream.html.

Sehgal was denied entry to Japan this month and escorted by police onto her flight home to Seattle after being interrogated for nine hours and held for 24 hours, despite never violating Japanese law.

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians documented and live streamed to the world on the morning of Friday December 19 (Japan time) as what appeared to be a massive pod of pilot whales was chased toward the cove. The pod fought desperately for their lives, but were ultimately unable to escape the relentless drive of the hunting boats and the “wall of sound” produced by the banger poles struck against the side of the vessels. Once netted in, their fate was sealed: the pod would spend more than 20 hours confined to the shallow waters of the cove without food or shelter before the brutal processes of captive selection and slaughter begin. The young bottlenose calf clung to its mother’s side as they spy-hopped after the terrifying drive, surely exhausted, confused and uncertain of what is to come next.

As the Cove Guardians reviewed their photographs, they noticed that netted in the cove along with the pilot whales were several bottlenose dolphins. This multi-species pod is a profitable find for the killers and trainers of Taiji, and it is quite possible that some of the dolphins and whales will be sold for captivity in aquariums and marine parks in Japan or overseas.

Rare “finds” like this, though, would be even more profitable for Taiji if they were left in the sea, and not slaughtered or taken captive. Other rare finds and captures by Taiji’s hunters this season have been two albino dolphins and one piebald dolphin. If the hunters put down their weapons, and instead turned to whale- and dolphin-watching operations, ecotourism could create a significant tourist draw for Taiji — without harming the wild, migrating cetacean families that swim past its shores.

“This beautiful mixed pod, including mothers and their calves, will soon be violently ripped apart — several generations slaughtered or stolen from the ocean for captivity,” said Sehgal. “It’s time for the killers to realize that dolphins and whales do not belong to Japan or to any nation. They have inherent value because they are living, sentient beings and vital parts of marine ecosystems, not because of how much we can profit from their deaths or imprisonment.”

The multi-species pod, including approximately 40-45 pilot whales and at least eight bottlenose dolphins, is a profitable find for the killersThe multi-species pod, including approximately 40-45 pilot whales and at least eight bottlenose dolphins,
is a profitable find for the killers
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 hunt season on September 1, the dolphin hunters have driven in a total of 22 family units, or pods, of cetaceans: one bottlenose dolphin pod, one pilot whale pod, two pods of striped dolphins and this most recent mixed pod of bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales. The majority of the season’s victims to date have been Risso’s dolphins, with 18 Risso’s pods captured and, with the exception of just a few, killed thus far.

For six months of each year — day in and day out, from September until March —entire pods of dolphins and small whales are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are hit against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted into the cove, the dolphins and whales face brutal slaughter or a lifetime in captivity. Killers and trainers work side-by-side to select the “prettiest” dolphins and small whales, those without visible scars, to be sold for captivity. Others are slaughtered before the eyes of their family. In a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove, any remaining pod members — usually juveniles and infants — are driven back out to sea with little chance of survival on their own.

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season, documenting and live streaming every capture and every slaughter for the world to see. The 2014-2015 season marks the fifth year of Operation Infinite Patience, and the Cove Guardians will not stop shining a spotlight on this atrocity until the slaughter ends.

Cove Guardians
Visit our
Cove Guardians
site for more information.

Dec 17, 2014

Sea Shepherd Intercepts Toothfish Poachers in the Southern Ocean

Thunder is a CCAMLR black-listed vessel and has been issued with an Interpol Purple Notice.Thunder is a CCAMLR black-listed vessel and has been issued with an Interpol Purple Notice.Yesterday, at approximately 2152 AEDT, the Sea Shepherd conservation ship, Bob Barker, intercepted the illegal fishing vessel Thunder, at 62˚ 15’ South, 81˚ 24’ East, inside the CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) region of management.

Fishing gear, marked by the presence of three orange buoys, was also located in close proximity to the Thunder.

A known poaching vessel, the Nigerian flagged Thunder was issued with an Interpol Purple Notice following a joint effort by New Zealand, Australia and Norway. Thunder is also on CCAMLR’s black list of illegal operators, and is known to utilise gillnets in its poaching operations – a method of fishing that is outlawed by CCAMLR.

In the 2006/07 Austral summer, the Australian Customs and Fisheries patrol vessel, Oceanic Viking and the Australia research vessel Aurora Australis, sighted the vessel – then named Typhoon - within the CCAMLR area. In 2013, Australian Fisheries Management Authority reported that regional strike force denied Thunder port access in Penang, Malaysia, and Bali after it tried to offload millions of dollars worth of illegal catch.

Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, immediately ordered the Thunder to Fremantle, Australia, to report to Australian law enforcement authorities.

GPS coordinates confirm Thunder’s location within the CCAMLR area.GPS coordinates confirm Thunder’s location within the CCAMLR area.“I have notified the Captain of the Thunder and his crew that they have been placed under citizen’s arrest; that they must cease their illegal fishing activities immediately and report to the Australian authorities. Should they ignore this order, I have notified the Thunder that Sea Shepherd has no choice but to directly intervene in order to obstruct their continued illegal activities.”

Captain Hammarstedt then notified CCAMLR authorities, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Fisheries Management Authority that the vessel had been located within the CCAMLR region.

Captain Hammarstedt has urged Australian authorities to take action against the poachers. “Australia is an integral member of CCAMLR, and has dedicated much time and many resources to combat IUU fishing that targets toothfish in the Southern Ocean. We call on them now to uphold this reputation and take action against these criminal operators.”

Thunder is currently heading in a westerly direction. The Bob Barker is in pursuit.

IUU (Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported) fishing of toothfish continues inside the CCAMLR region, despite the Commission’s efforts to eliminate this threat to the Antarctic ecosystem. Currently six operators are known to be involved in IUU fishing of toothfish inside the area.

Operation Icefish is Sea Shepherd’s 11th Southern Ocean Defence Campaign, and the first to target IUU toothfish fishing operators in the waters of Antarctica.

BUSTED! Capt. Peter Hammarstedt catches toothfish-poaching vessel, Thunder, inside CCAMLR region.BUSTED! Capt. Peter Hammarstedt catches toothfish-poaching vessel, Thunder, inside CCAMLR region. 3 buoys mark fishing gear in close proximity to the poaching vessel, Thunder.3 buoys mark fishing gear in close proximity to the poaching vessel, Thunder.

all photos: Simon Ager / Sea Shepherd

Dec 17, 2014

Sea Shepherd Attorney in Japan Files Formal Grievance Against Japanese Police

The Formal Letter is the Beginning of Legal Action by Sea Shepherd to Protect the Rights of Volunteers on the Ground in Taiji to Document the Capture and Slaughter of Dolphins and Small Whales

news-141216-1-cove-guardian-logo-black-400wA Japanese attorney based in Tokyo has sent a formal letter, on behalf of his client Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, to the Shingu and Wakayama City Police, countering accusations from the police departments that Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers violated Japanese law by following a truck on public roads and taking photographs to document the transportation of dolphins for captivity. The formal letter is the beginning of legal action to protect the basic constitutional rights of Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian volunteers on the ground in Japan.

On November 21 (Japan time), Cove Guardian volunteers followed a truck holding dolphins in crates, as the cetaceans captured in Taiji’s brutal drive hunt were being transferred for captivity at an aquarium or marine park. As they have always done before, the Cove Guardians complied with Japanese law to ensure the safety of all involved. However, police approached the volunteers on November 22 and told them that following the truck is an offense under “Minor Offense Law,” Act 1, Item 28. On the morning of December 9, police also told the Cove Guardians that photographs taken December 8 outside a location that purchases dolphin meat were taken in violation of Wakayama city ordinance, Article 11, Item 1. The police warned the Sea Shepherd volunteers that if they attempt these activities again, they will face arrest.

Sea Shepherd’s attorney has notified the police departments that the Cove Guardians acted within the basic rights guaranteed by Japan’s constitution. The formal letter states (translated into English), “These activities are to investigate the truth and to record it, as it is guaranteed by our constitution article 21-1 ‘Freedom of Expression’ and it is not at all ‘illegal.’ Therefore we demand that you notify us, which actions would apply to which law, the number of articles, etc. in a precise manner within two weeks after receiving this letter. If we do not receive your reply, then we will conclude that you have admitted that you did an illegal action of impeding their freedom of expression.”

Each year since the beginning of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Infinite Patience campaign in 2010, the Cove Guardians have been on the ground in Taiji throughout the entire six-month annual hunt season, documenting the capture and slaughter of dolphins and small whales, and live streaming these atrocities for the world to see. In keeping with a promise made to Japanese authorities, the Cove Guardians and Sea Shepherd have abided by Japanese laws while on campaign in Taiji.

Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader, Melissa Sehgal was denied entry into Japan this month to document the slaughter, despite never violating the law during her four seasons in Taiji. Coincidentally, she was denied entry and sent home on December 8 — the same day the Cove Guardians were being monitored by police for their perfectly legal activities — after nine hours of interrogation and an overnight stay in a holding cell on December 7.

“Sea Shepherd promised that our Cove Guardian volunteers will always act in accordance with Japanese law, and we have continued to honor that promise. We want to ensure that the Cove Guardians are able to return to Taiji until the slaughter ends,” said Sehgal. “I am hopeful that this beginning of legal action will not only protect the rights of our volunteers on the ground, but also help us to be even more effective in our efforts for the dolphins and whales.”

Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 hunt season on September 1, the dolphin hunters have driven in a total of 21 family units, or pods, of cetaceans. The majority of the season’s victims have been Risso’s dolphins, with a total of 18 Risso’s pods slaughtered thus far. The remainder of the pods driven in have been one bottlenose dolphin pod, one pilot whale pod and two pods of striped dolphins.

For six months of each year – day in and day out, from September until March – entire pods of dolphins and small whales are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are hit against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted into the cove, the dolphins and whales face brutal slaughter or a lifetime in captivity. In a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove, remaining pod members — usually juveniles and infants — are driven back out to sea with little hope of survival on their own.

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season, documenting and live streaming every capture and every slaughter for the world to see. The 2014-2015 season marks the fifth year of Operation Infinite Patience, and the Cove Guardians will not stop shining a spotlight on this atrocity until the slaughter ends.

Cove Guardians
Visit our
Cove Guardians
site for more information.

Dec 12, 2014

Operation Pacuare Wrap-up – the Numbers Are In

Sea Shepherd crew on patrolSea Shepherd crew on patrol
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in partnership with the Latin American Sea Turtles Association (LAST), recently concluded Operation Pacuare, our first sea turtle defense campaign in Costa Rica. The successful anti-poaching sea turtle campaign launched on August 15, 2014, and included volunteers local to Costa Rica, and others from around the world, patrolling the eight mile-long stretch of Pacuare Beach nightly in search of nesting turtles and their nests.

Over the course of the campaign, Sea Shepherd’s volunteers located 42 nests on the nightly patrols. Finding these nests resulted in the relocation of a total of 4,737 sea turtle eggs, including 559 endangered leatherback, 1,532 endangered green and 2,646 critically endangered hawksbill eggs. However, not all eggs result in hatchlings as some eggs aren’t fertile or the hatchling fails to develop in the appropriate time needed. And thus, 269 leatherback, 1,163 green, and 1,546 hawksbill hatchlings were successfully released into the ocean ­­– that’s a grand total of 2,978 sea turtles saved!

An unspoken, primitive “poacher law” exists in Pacuare that the first person who finds a turtle or nest, can lay claim to it. Keeping this in mind, our nightly patrols were that much more important. If our volunteers found a nest, the eggs would be removed, and carefully transported to a guarded hatchery. But if a poacher found a nest, it would be dismantled, with the eggs sold as a believed aphrodisiac on the Asian black market. If a nesting turtle was spotted on the beach, she could safely return to the ocean under the watchful eyes of Sea Shepherd’s volunteers who ensured she would not be poached for meat.

A saved green sea turtle makes its way to the oceanA saved green sea turtle makes its way
to the ocean
Photo: Sea Shepherd
The hatchery incubated sea turtle eggs in safety, away from both animal and human predators. Once they emerged, each sea turtle hatchling was measured and weighed to further scientific data on the species, before it was immediately released into the ocean.

Not all sea turtles on Pacuare Beach this year were saved at night. As a Sea Shepherd volunteer surveyed the beach one afternoon, an adult female green sea turtle was found flipped on her back, presumably by poachers, rendering her immobile. It would only be a matter of time before these poachers would return to kill her for meat. Despite the unspoken “poacher law,” volunteers bravely stayed with the turtle, most likely caught while attempting to nest on the beach, and alerted the Costa Rican Coast Guard. Afraid to face their crime, the poachers never returned to claim the sea turtle. Meanwhile, volunteers worked with the Costa Rican Coast Guard to return her safely back to the ocean.

Protecting Costa Rica’s sea turtles isn’t a task for Sea Shepherd volunteers alone. Through community outreach and employment, Sea Shepherd aimed to foster the appreciation locals have towards protecting the sea turtles that frequent Pacuare Beach. Hiring locals as guides for nightly patrols on the beach accomplished this. Not only did this allow for volunteers to be more effective on patrols, but it also provided an income to the locals in this small community where there are few ways to earn a living.

Sea Shepherd volunteers also worked on other projects in the community to help improve the living conditions for the small local population. The local health clinic, a basic and essential resource to every community, was entirely unusable. Due to its poor condition, volunteers worked to thoroughly clean the clinic, allowing medical care to resume the very next day for local residents. Volunteers worked to clear the main water channel of overgrown vegetation, allowing easier boat access to the community. Additionally, volunteers helped with necessary repairs to the local community center.

The combination of Sea Shepherd’s direct action by way of nightly patrols to keep sea turtles out of poachers’ hands, and helping rebuild the local island community, has made an impact on the conservation of several endangered sea turtle species in Costa Rica. It is our hope that some of the hatchlings will survive into adulthood, and be able to return to Pacuare Beach to nest one day.

Thank you to all of the volunteers and kindhearted supporters who contributed to this campaign and made it possible to save so many lives, whether it be through donations, encouragement or time.

Hatchlings were measured before being releasedHatchlings were measured before being released
Photo: Sea Shepherd

A hatchling attempting to reach the oceanA hatchling attempting to reach the ocean
Photo: Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd crews help clean up a local medical centerSea Shepherd crews help clean up a local medical center
Photo: Sea Shepherd

Operation Pacuare
Visit our
Operation Pacuare
site for more information.

Dec 10, 2014

Three Sea Shepherd Wildlife-Sniffing Dogs Retiring, Looking for Homes

If You’re in the Seattle Area, Please Consider Applying to Foster or Adopt One of These Canine Heroes!

Terminator, Luna, and JonathanRetired Officers Terminator, Luna, and Jonathan
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Since the year 2000, Sea Shepherd has maintained a positive presence in the Galapagos Islands, cooperating in efforts by the National Park Service to protect the Galapagos Marine Reserve and the wildlife within. As part of our wide-ranging work to defend the Galapagos, since 2008 Sea Shepherd has worked in cooperation with the Ecuadorian police to support an elite K9 police unit dedicated to the detection of smuggled wildlife — the first unit of its kind in South America.

Three of these heroic dogs — Terminator, Luna and Jonathan — are soon to retire following five years of service as canine police officers. A formal ceremony will be held in their honor in Quito on December 17. New dogs will also be on hand (or paw!) and sworn in to officially become K9 officers working to protect the fragile Galapagos ecosystem.

On December 18, Sea Shepherd representatives will accompany the three dogs to Seattle, where the non-profit organization Lady’s Hope Dog Rescue will help to find loving forever homes for them. These amazing dogs will be in need of foster and adoptive homes very soon!

Don’t be fooled by Terminator’s name! He’s just serious about terminating crimes against wildlife! He, Luna and Jonathan are all seven-year-old yellow Labrador retrievers and are friendly and good with other dogs (cats are unknown). They are active, and love to play with tennis balls — this favorite dog toy has been their reward for finding contraband wildlife!

If you reside in the Pacific Northwest, and especially in the Seattle area, please consider applying to foster or adopt Terminator, Luna or Jonathan. If interested, please email: info@ladys-hope.org. If you cannot open your heart and home to a loving retired police dog at this time, please help us by spreading the word to family and friends in the region!

JonathanRetired Officer Jonathan
Photo: Sea Shepherd

LunaRetired Officer Luna
Photo: Sea Shepherd

TerminatorRetired Officer Terminator
Photo: Sea Shepherd

Visit our
Sea Shepherd Galapagos
site for more information.
Sea Shepherd Galapagos

Dec 08, 2014

Cove Guardian Campaign Leader Melissa Sehgal Denied Entry to Japan

Denial Occurs While Taiji’s Killers Rounded up and Slaughtered Pod of 50-60 Striped Dolphins, the First Striped Pod Killed This Season

Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Leader, Melissa Sehgal in Taiji, January 2014File Photo: Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Leader, Melissa Sehgal in Taiji, January 2014Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Senior Cove Guardian Leader Melissa Sehgal has been denied entry to Japan to document the brutal annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji’s infamous cove. While Taiji’s killers were rounding up a pod of approximately 50-60 striped dolphins yesterday, Sehgal was being escorted by airport police to the boarding gate at Tokyo’s Narita Airport after being interrogated and detained and finally forced to leave the country. Sehgal, who has never broken a Japanese law, was denied entry simply for being affiliated with the marine conservation nonprofit, Sea Shepherd. Sehgal has been on the ground in Taiji for four seasons and for six months at a time, the longest duration of any other activist documenting the atrocities in Taiji.

Sehgal landed in Tokyo late Saturday and was immediately pulled out of line for questioning. After being interrogated for nearly nine hours and detained for 24 hours, much of that in a holding cell, Sehgal was escorted onto her flight by police and forced to leave the country. While Sehgal was in the holding cell (for which $500 USD for “security” was attempted to be extorted from her), Japanese Immigration confiscated all her belongings including her phone, computer and bag (everything, but her coat) and held them until the following morning at 8 am Japan time. Trying to enter the country on a tourist visa, she was told by Immigration that although she had not broken any laws, she is still not considered a tourist. Sehgal landed back in the USA this morning.

“Since when is taking pictures of what Japan contends is their ‘culture’ not considered a tourist activity?” said Sehgal. “Japan is so ashamed of their serial killing and kidnapping of wild dolphins that they are trying to stop activists like me from showing the world the truth. It is a testament to our effectiveness that they are trying to keep us out.”

Sehgal’s entry denial follows a pattern of denials the Cove Guardians have experienced recently. Scott West, Sea Shepherd Director of Intelligence and Investigations, was also denied entry late last season, and several high profile veteran Cove Guardians have been denied entry this season. Other veterans have made it through and the campaign has continued undaunted.

The slaughter on December 8th left no survivorsThe slaughter on December 8th
left no survivors
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Sehgal, who said she was proud to have been escorted by airport police and Immigration through Narita Airport while wearing her Sea Shepherd attire, stated: “I am very happy with the well-trained team we have on the ground right now in Taiji. If Japan thinks that denying my entry into the country is going to have any negative impact whatsoever on our campaign, all I have to say is they should know Sea Shepherd by now. We are unstoppable.”

As the horrors continue in Taiji, it is clear why Japan is so intent on trying to keep Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians from showing the world what happens on their deadly shores. On Monday, December 8 (Japan time), a pod of approximately 50-60 striped dolphins was driven to the cove and netted in. Striped dolphins are known to put up a brave fight for their lives against the killers, so tarps were quickly raised so that the wild dolphins could not throw themselves onto the rocks in an attempt to escape.

Given the considerable number of the striped dolphins and the fact that the pod included juveniles, the Cove Guardians initially believed that some of the dolphins might be driven back out to sea following the slaughter of the rest of their family. Juveniles and infants are often released at sea by the killers following a hunt – not out of kindness, but so that these small dolphins who will not produce much meat do not count toward the season’s quota. However, after the killers drove one portion of the pod to the back of the cove for slaughter, they returned to force the remaining dolphins – now swimming frantically and spy-hopping in the cove after witnessing the brutal killing of their family – to the shore to meet the same terrible fate. Every single last striped dolphin, already becoming scarce elsewhere in Japan’s waters, was killed.

This family was the first striped dolphin pod to be captured and killed during the 2014-2015 season, as the killers have found mostly Risso’s dolphins since the hunt season began on September 1 of this year. This was the 20th pod of dolphins captured and killed in the cove this season. There have been 17 Risso’s pods, one pilot whale pod, one bottlenose pod and one striped pod that have met their demise in the cove since the start of the season on Sept 1 of this year. From those pods, a handful of individuals have been taken into captivity. These lucrative few, once sold to aquariums, are what fuel the continued capture and slaughter.

The family of dolphins stuck together until the bitter endThe family of dolphins stuck together until the bitter end
Photo: Sea Shepherd
"This is truly a sad day for me,” said Sehgal, “but I shed tears for the hundreds of lives lost each and every year in Taiji. My voice will never be silent. The exposure of my denial into Japan means a victory for the dolphins. Sea Shepherd continues to apply pressure and shine an international spotlight on the daily atrocities in Taiji.”

For six months of each year – from September until March – entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales at a time are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are hit against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted into the cove, the dolphins and whales face brutal slaughter or a lifetime in captivity. In a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove, remaining pod members — usually juveniles and infants — are driven back out to sea with little hope of survival on their own.

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season, documenting and live streaming every capture and every slaughter for the world to see. The 2014-2015 season marks the fifth year of Operation Infinite Patience, and the Cove Guardians will not stop shining a spotlight on this atrocity until the slaughter ends.

Cove Guardians
Visit our
Cove Guardians
site for more information.

Dec 05, 2014

The Cape Cod Blackfisheries and a Comparison with the Faroese Grind

Commentary by Erwin Vermeulen

The choices you make once your society as a whole becomes affluent and educated, define your civilization and testify to your moral and ethical progress. It really doesn’t matter how long you have been killing and how well you have documented that history. If a stop to the killing threatens the survival of your culture, your culture does not deserve to survive.
~ Erwin Vermeulen

Please note that here “blackfish” refers to pilot whales, not orcas.

As in the Faroes, the Cape Codders would not only take pilot whales, but also dolphins, usually referred to as “porpoises,” when available.As in the Faroes, the Cape Codders would
not only take pilot whales, but also dolphins,
usually referred to as “porpoises,” when available
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Erwin Vermeulen
When Henry David Thoreau, of “Civil Disobedience” and “Walden” fame, visited Cape Cod in July 1855 he witnessed a pod of long-finned pilot whales — at that time and place, referred to as “blackfish” — hunted ashore at a location called Great Hollow, on the west side of the Outer Cape near the town of Truro. A bit further north, he could see how another pod was chased. He describes the hunt in his 1865 book “Cape Cod.” His description could have just as easily applied to how the same species, during the same era, were slaughtered on the other side of the North Atlantic in the Faroe Islands:

“When I came to Great Hollow I found a fisherman and some boys on the watch, and counted about thirty blackfish just killed, with many lance wounds, and the water was more or less bloody around. They were partly on shore and partly in the water, held by a rope around their tails till the tide should leave them…They were waiting for the tide to leave these fishes high and dry, that they might strip off the blubber and carry it to their try-works…They get commonly a barrel of oil, worth fifteen or twenty dollars, to a fish.”

Many Faroese might now claim that they have always hunted pilot whales just for food, but that is not true.

As Joan Pauli Joensen describes in his book “Pilot whaling in the Faroe Islands”: “In the past the blubber that was not used for food was used to produce whale oil. The blubber from the whale’s head was cut away in pieces and melted down in an oil pot to produce whale oil. The oil used to be used in lamps. The oil used to be of great financial importance to landowners, as long as they received a relatively large share of the catch.”

The landowners that Joensen mentions have had the legal right to the lion’s share of whales killed or stranded on “their” shores for as far back as written history goes in the Faroes, with the remainder being distributed according to the custom of the locality.

That first share was called the Jardarhvalur, the whales allocated to the shore-owners.

While the brutal slaughter goes on in the Faroes in our time, in Cape Cod efforts are made to refloat beached animals.While the brutal slaughter goes on in the Faroes in our time, in Cape Cod efforts are made to refloat beached animals
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Erwin Vermeulen
Lucas Debes in 1673 is the first to describe the division of a grind: “…the first tenth is set aside as the sighting whale (the whale, largest of the pod or its equivalent in meat and blubber, allocated to those person or persons who first sighted the pod)…the remainder is divided into two shares, the one part for the people, the other for the one who owns the land, whether that may be the king, a nobleman or a commoner.”

When Jens Christian Svabo in 1779 describes the distribution, it is clear that oil production is an important part of the grind: “A one-florin whale is expected to produce one barrel of oil, a three-florin whale around three barrels, etc.”

By the time of the first whaling regulations of 1832 the land-whale comprised only a quarter of the catch and the crown-whale was to be sold for “1/3 of a pot of whale oil per skinn.” Oil is no longer produced; there was one last revival of this practice during World War One.

Thoreau mentions in his eyewitness report the tools of the bloody trade: “There were many harpoons and lances in the boats – much slender instruments than I had expected…”

On both sides of the Atlantic, spears and harpoons were used. The Faroese had the hvalvakn, a whaling spear used to stab the whales and consisting of a 45cm steel blade fastened to a wooden shaft of two meters in length. It was attached to a line so that it could be retrieved. It was used onboard the boats, but according to the whaling regulations of 1986 only the sheriff and whaling foremen are allowed to carry one in their boats now.

Besides the hvalvakn, the Faroese also had the skutil, handheld harpoons that were used when the foremen or sheriff officially abandoned the hunt and anybody could kill as they pleased and keep their catch, as happens in Thoreau’s description of the second Cape Cod hunt. The skutil is no longer used, as catches are no longer abandoned to a free-for-all in the Faroes.

Thoreau continues: “As I stood there they raised the cry of “another school,” and we could see their black backs and their blowing about a mile northward, as they went leaping over the sea like horses. Some boats were already in pursuit there, driving them toward the beach. Other fishermen and boys running up began to jump into boats and push them off from where I stood, and I might have gone too had I chosen.”

The hunts, both in Cape Cod and in the Faroes, were incidental, by chance. When pilot whales were sighted from the shore or by fishermen at sea, a hunt would be initiated.

One 1834 newspaper article read: “One Sunday, late in the fall, when the fishermen were quitting on their way home in boats from Provincetown an immense school of blackfish were discovered…They landed at Great Hallow.”

Of course people both on land and at sea would keep an eye out for whales to be hunted and killed, but boats both at Cape Cod and in the Faroes would not go out specifically to search for dolphin species as is done in Taiji, Japan.

Thoreau: “Soon there were twenty-five or thirty boats in pursuit, some large ones under sail, and others rowing with might and main, keeping outside of the school, those nearest to the fishes striking on the sides of their boats and blowing horns to drive them on the beach.”

On both sides of the Atlantic, sound was used to drive the whales. Compare Thoreau’s description with the one by American traveling botanist and author Elizabeth Taylor, who first came to the Faroes in 1895 and lived there for a total of 10 years. She wrote about a grind she witnessed in Midvagur: “the boats charged ahead with loud shouts, the clanging of metal on metal, and blows on the gunwales.”

There were shares per boat and for each man involved in the hunt both in the Faroes and in Cape Cod:

“It was an exciting race. If they succeeded in driving them ashore each boat takes one share, and then each man, but if they are compelled to strike them off shore each boat’s company take what they strike…

In the meanwhile the fishes had turned and were escaping northward towards Provincetown, only occasionally the back of one being seen. So the nearest crews were compelled to strike them, and we saw several boats soon made fast, each to its fish, which four or five rods ahead, was drawing it like a race-horse straight toward the beach, leaping half out of the water blowing blood and water from its hole, and leaving a streak of foam behind. But they went ashore too far north for us though we could see the fishermen leap out and lance them on the sand…I learned that a few days before this one hundred and eighty blackfish had been driven ashore in one school at Eastham, a little farther south…”

Many Faroese might now claim that they have always hunted pilot whales just for food, but that is not trueMany Faroese might now claim that they have always hunted pilot whales just for food, but that is not true
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Erwin Vermeulen

As in the Faroes, the Cape Codders would not only take pilot whales, but also dolphins, usually referred to as “porpoises,” when available.

The line between a subsistence hunt and a commercial hunt was paper thin in these early societies. The poor fishermen in both Cape Cod and the Faroes would grab what they could get to make a buck and put food on the table and a roof over their heads. It doesn’t really matter if you eat the whale you kill or render it into oil that you sell and then use that money to get by.

Both societies had an upper class: the landowners that made a profit from whales driven onto “their” beaches in the Faroes and the oil merchants that owned try-works and/or transport ships in New England.

The history of the hunt in Cape Cod is not as meticulously recorded as in the Faroes after the early 1700s, but equally long.

As in any ancient, coastal society, people lived from what the sea had to offer, from barnacles, bi-valves and crustaceans among the rocks, and seaweed in the surf, to dead animals washing up on the beach. From there it is a small step to wade in and collect what is further out. Swimming or designing tools like harpoons, nets or fishing rods is already a bigger step and designing rafts, canoes and boats to take you even further out to sea, the next step.

The indigenous people of the Americas must have taken advantage of beached and dead, drifting whales centuries before the Europeans arrived, almost exclusively for food. There is no indication that they resorted to active whaling before the Europeans introduced it.

At daybreak on November 9, 1620, after two months at sea, the Mayflower reached the tip of Cape Cod. The Pilgrims were far north of the mouth of the Hudson River where they were supposed to land, but after a day the Pilgrims gave up travelling south and on November 11, they dropped anchor where today is Provincetown Harbor. Almost immediately whales surrounded the ship. The pilgrims, typical of the mentality of those times, regretted that they lacked the “instruments and meanes” to turn them into a fortune.

On December 6, while exploring the Cape’s inner arm, the shallop of the Mayflower saw a dozen or so Indians “busie about a blacke thing” near what is today Wellfleet Harbor. The next morning they found that the “blacke thing” was a great “fish,” which they called a “Grampus”. They found a couple more and this time the Pilgrims regretted lacking the “time and meanes” to boil down the blubber, but they did name the place Grampus Bay.

Pilot whales swim past the beautiful but deadly shores of the Faroe IslandsPilot whales swim past the beautiful
but deadly shores of the Faroe Islands
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Erwin Vermeulen
We know this magnificent animal today as the pilot whale.

The earliest whaling by the colonists was again done by chance. People responded to strandings, and soon lookout stations were set up to watch for these whales, known as “drift whales”. Just imagine a time in which whales were so plentiful that you could stroll along the beaches or go out into the bay to collect deceased ones.

The colonists soon found out that many more whales ended up on the beaches of Cape Cod than further north along Massachusetts Bay. Provincetown was chosen for permanent settlement by the Pilgrims, because of the whales on the doorstep. The long, curvaceous arm of land receives one of the highest numbers of strandings in the world.

By the 1640s more than 200 people lived on Cape Cod with whale oil as a staple commodity, especially as fuel for lighting in their homes. Oil and whalebone had become part of international trade for the colony. Trying out the oil (extracting the oil from the blubber and other parts through boiling) and using that oil and whalebone for economic profit in the new world started with the Europeans.

During the winter months from November to mid-March, shore whalers would live in areas where whales were often seen: the lands around Cape Cod Bay, along the southern shore of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and on Great Island and Lieutenants Island in Wellfleet. Lookouts were posted at highpoints like dunes and hills, or a tower was built. Try-yards were set up.

In, for instance, the town of Southampton the rules were not unlike those today in the Faroes: “profits were shared by every inhabitant along with his child or servant above 16 years of age, those performing the labor to receive an extra share.”

There were whaling laws written by towns on Cape Cod as early as 1652. Ownership disputes over whales and tax paid to the public treasury soon became part of the endeavor.

Eventually the colonists became impatient waiting for dead whales. Why rely on God or natural causes for whales to die and beach themselves, on weather and currents or wandering pilot whales to supply whale oil and bone, if they could row and sail out to force providence?

Thus the colonists, slowly at first, then with increasing regularity, took to the sea in their boats and went whaling — shore whaling that is, within a few miles from the beach, when whales ventured close to shore or in shallow waters. Although they would occasionally kill a humpback whale, or drive a school of pilot whales ashore, the focus of the whale hunt in Cape Cod in those early days was directed at the right whale. The species was given the name “right” because they were known as the right kind to take: they came closer to shore, were slow, floated when dead, and yielded a large amount of baleen (then called whalebone) and blubber.

Colonists used whaling methods that had been developed centuries earlier in Europe. The right and bowhead whales were almost the only species hunted at the time, especially at Spitsbergen.

Whaling from small boats had been taking place in the Northwestern Atlantic long before the colonization of America. Basques and other Europeans had moved whaling to the Newfoundland Banks, when the right whales they had been hunting en masse since the 12th and 13th century became scarce closer to home.

Active shore whaling in New England only really took off in the 1670s. On Cape Cod the years between the end of King Philip’s War (1678) and 1715 were the glory days of active shore whaling.

Whales were food for the early colonists just as for the Faroese. Europeans had eaten whale for centuries during the Middle Ages as an alternative to the meat of land animals, which was taboo on lean days — more than half of the days of the year on the Christian calendar.

On American whaling ships, blackfish were taken for lighting oil, extracted from the head and blubber, and for a supply of fresh meat. As the colonies grew richer, whale meat became food “for Indians and swine to eat,” but on Cape Cod, obtaining oil from pilot whales and using them as food continued well into the 20th Century, as Cape Codders were too frugal to forego any bounty offered by the sea. As in Taiji, Japan, it was a dish more for local “fishermen,” rather than the general population of the colonies.

In the 1720s, throughout colony waters, whales were becoming scarce. In 1737 Provincetown killed only two small whales; in 1738 Yarmouth men killed but one whale that season; in 1739 just two whales were taken at Sandwich; and in 1746 only three or four whales were caught throughout all of Cape Cod.

This serves as a reminder that it does not take an industrialized society to wipe out a species.

Whaling went from shore-based to vessel-based and spread around the world — with New England’s Nantucket as the global leader in this first oil-boom industry.

Not until the 1880s, with the invention of the bomb-lance, was there a shore whaling revival in Cape Cod when whalers went after fins and humpbacks. The bow-mounted harpoon-canon, on steam- and later diesel-powered ships, soon followed. Modern whaling came to the Faroes as well at that time.

Now not a single species of whale was safe from humans anymore, anywhere.

After 1715, shore whaling declined, as had drift whaling thirty years earlier. On Cape Cod, shore whaling was no longer a thriving winter industry, but by this time, many blackfish were taken during summer. The Cape Codders had turned to another oil-producing animal: the pilot whale.

Blackfish arrived in summer, while the other whales arrived in winter. They were seldom seen earlier than June or later than December.

The excellent history book “Cape Cod Shore Whaling” by John Braginton-Smith and Duncan Oliver, from which much of the above information is derived, says:

“Try-yards that appear in records after the civil war (1865) were used mostly for blackfish, rather than by original shore whalers.”

The same book produces a chronological list of captures from 1716 onwards, gathered from old newspaper records. It is not always clear if the animals were drive-hunted ashore or naturally stranded:

August 16, 1716: “…a great school of blackfish drove on shore at Mr. John Mulford’s cleft.”

1741: “A great number of blackfish and porpoises came into Cape Cod Bay. By the close of October, 150 porpoises and 1000 blackfish had been killed, yielding about 1500 barrels of oil.”

October 1742: “The people of Truro killed nearly four hundred blackfish at Mulford’s Cliff, near Truro. They cleared seventy-nine pounds (English currency) per share.”

September 1743: “Sixty blackfish were captured off Robin’s Hill in the north precinct. Proceeds were shared among those involved. Each received twelve pounds a share.”

The next month the people from Harwich killed four or five hundred blackfish at Mulford’s cleft and cleared 79 pounds a single share.

1744: “About three hundred blackfish were killed at Skaket by a few men.”

1745: “A school of blackfish was discovered off Robin’s Hill. Juddah Berry’s boat crew engaged in pursuit and succeeded in capturing 8.”

1759: “In November, a large school of porpoises was discovered in the bay. Eighteen boats were engaged in pursuit and some three hundred porpoises were driven ashore at Rock Harbor. Seven of the boats were from north side of Harwich.”

1834: “One Sunday, late in the fall, when the fishermen were quitting on their way home in boats from Provincetown an immense school of blackfish were discovered…They landed at Great Hallow.”

1850: “Seventy-five blackfish went ashore between Wellfleet and Truro.”

July 1, 1855: “a large school of blackfish were discovered in the Bay and driven ashore at Horseneck, East Brewster and Orleans…”

July 20, 1855: “A school of 73 blackfish were driven into Barnstable Harbor by Captains Joshua Hamblin and Jacob Howes. They are unusually large and fat and thought to bring about $1200.”

September 1855: “A school of blackfish, 102 in all, were driven ashore at Truro last week.”

1870: “767 blackfish came ashore on Cape Cod, yielding 1020 barrels of oil.”

1874: “The largest known school of blackfish ever driven ashore at Cape Cod, numbering 1405 stranded on Truro beach, yielding 27.000 gallons of oil. They lay on the shore from Great Hollow to Pond Landing, a distance of a mile.”

November 11, 1874: “300 at Truro, two weeks later 66 at the Island and 175 at Eastham.”

In 1874 the North American Oil Company invested $2,400 in boilers, tanks and kettles for trying out blackfish blubber in Wellfleet. In 1875, 300 barrels of oil were extracted, and 100 barrels in 1876. During 1877, 1878 and 1879, no blackfish appeared on the coast and operations were suspended.

Mid 1875: “120 blackfish in North Dennis.”

1885: “1500 blackfish entered Wellfleet Bay and were driven into Blackfish Creek. “Hundreds of men in boats surrounded the school, and frightened them into the narrow and shallow waters of the creek, where they were left on the beach by the receding tide. They were sold for $14.000 and the money was divided among those who assisted in the capture and killing.”

November 1885: “1200 to 1400 whales, worth about $12.000, were driven ashore from Provincetown to Dennis. During the last days of December, 5 to 600 blackfish came ashore on the backside of Sandy Neck.”

After that, no blackfish were seen for almost 30 years — and the whalers abandoned their gear. When there was a stranding of 30 animals in 1912, and another 50 a few weeks later, and then 180 after another few days, almost all of them were abandoned, owing to the lack of whaling apparatus.

There was a similar situation in the Faroes. In the period between 1750 and 1795, “only” 13 schools of pilot whales were killed — a total of 2,459 whales. The absence of pilot whales from around 1750 caused a disintegration of the whole system related to pilot whaling. People started to abandon their whaling gear in the Faroes as well.

Nobody knows for sure why the pilot whales suddenly stayed away. Overhunting would be a logical conclusion, but the killers in the Faroes, like those in coastal Japan, always blame the absence of whales and dolphins on changes in food distribution, related to changes in seawater temperature, caused by climatic variations.

Around Cape Cod there were more strandings in 1914, 1916, 1918, and 1926, continuing to the present day. Only the hunting days were over and the mentality of the people had changed.

While the brutal slaughter goes on in the Faroes in our time, in Cape Cod efforts are made to refloat beached animals.

A New York Times article of 1987 reports:

“When word of the first strandings was spread, scores of Cape Codders rushed to the beaches. Many plunged into the frigid waters to push or heave the pilot whales, most of them 25 feet long or more and all weighing several tons, out into deeper water. Volunteers manned bulldozers to lift smaller whales into crude stretchers and scoop them onto flatbed trucks, which were driven as quickly as possible to calmer inlets, where the whales were swung back into the quiet water.”

Another article reports that in September 1991, with help from an extremely high tide and an overcast sky, volunteers rescued 21 of 27 pilot whales that became stranded in the marshes of Chipman's Cove.

There is now a stranding hotline and volunteer training and, as was necessary in January 2014 on Harding’s Beach, humane euthanization for animals that cannot be saved.

The choices you make once your society as a whole becomes affluent and educated, define your civilization and testify to your moral and ethical progress. It really doesn’t matter how long you have been killing and how well you have documented that history. If a stop to the killing threatens the survival of your culture, your culture does not deserve to survive.

(Pilot) whale hunting was definitely part of Cape Cod’s culture, but the people there have evolved, moved on.

In the Faroes, well-to-do lawyers, schoolteachers, driving instructors and taxi drivers rush to the beaches to kill for pleasure and for some free — but toxic — food. People flock to Cape Cod to go whale watching and the locals profit from and protect their valuable resource.

The Cape Cod whale-watching industry operates roughly from Mid-April to late October. Dolphin Fleet and Provincetown Whale Watches run trips out of Provincetown, while Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises leaves from Barnstable Harbor. In the rest of Massachusetts there are whale-watching trips
 from Nantucket, Plymouth, Boston, Newburyport and Gloucester. And there are many more operators in Maine, Long Island and New Hampshire.

A 2009 study estimated that 13 million people went whale watching globally in 2008. Whale watching generated $2.1 billion per annum in tourism revenue worldwide that year, employing around 13,000 workers. The industry is set to grow 10 percent annually. Whale tourism could add more than $400 million and 5,700 jobs to the global economy each year. Of course whale watching comes with its own set of problems and uncertainties, but whales and dolphins are certainly worth more alive than dead today.

The Faroese could profit from the tourism industry, including whale watching. Some may say that will not work, as pods visit too irregularly. But how would they know if they have been killing every pod that ventured close to land for the last five centuries? The whales had been gone from Cape Cod as well. They returned when the locals stopped killing them.

The Faroes do not have to turn to tourism and whale watching; they can remain a subsidy-leech in Denmark’s pelt, if they want. They do however have to stop the killing. Those last barbaric governments that allow a small group of its uncaring citizens to continue slaughtering cetaceans must be forced to quit.

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Dec 02, 2014

No Thanksgiving for the Dolphins of Taiji, as Albino Dolphin is Captured in The Cove

The Capture Follows Another White Risso’s Dolphin Captured Nov. 23 (Japan time) Originally Reported to be Albino, Now Confirmed Piebald

Yuki, the albino Risso's dolphin captured Nov. 28, swims in the Taiji Harbor sea pens before being transferred to Taiji Whale Museum. Photo: Sea ShepherdYuki, the albino Risso's dolphin captured Nov. 28, swims in the Taiji Harbor sea pens before being transferred to Taiji Whale Museum. Photo: Sea ShepherdFive days after news broke of a second white dolphin — originally reported to be albino, and now confirmed as piebald — captured in the cove this season in Taiji, unbelievably another rare, white Risso’s dolphin was driven in and captured in the cove on Friday (Nov. 28 Japan time), report Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians from on the ground in Taiji.

While Thanksgiving was being celebrated in the US, Friday morning in Japan the Taiji dolphin killers located the 16th pod of Risso’s this season and relentlessly drove them into the cove. After the nets were dropped and the hunters circled their prey, Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians were stunned to see that another white dolphin — now confirmed to be albino — was swimming within the pod. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians speculate the pod may have been the remaining family members of the pod caught earlier in the week.

The killers had dollar signs in their eyes, as they quickly snatched the albino dolphin away from its family in the killing cove. The entire family of five was destroyed as four members were brutally slaughtered and the albino was kidnapped for a life in captivity. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians have named the albino male dolphin Yuki, which means “snow” in Japanese. The Cove Guardians are giving the rare, white dolphins Japanese names in an effort to rally compassionate Japanese citizens to take a stand against the ongoing atrocities committed in the cove.

Within hours of Yuki being dumped into the Taiji Harbor sea pens, the Taiji Whale Museum trainers transferred the dolphin via truck into the museum to keep a closer watch over their newfound treasure. Yuki joins “Shoujo,” also known as “Angel,” the albino bottlenose dolphin captured last January, and “Shiro,” the Risso’s dolphin captured Sunday, Nov. 23 (Japan time) in the cove. Upon review of additional footage of Shiro, the Cove Guardians have confirmed that the female, mostly white dolphin with a large gray spot is in fact piebald and not albino. Some animals that are mostly white or lighter-colored than usual but have dark eyes are not true albinos. When pigmentation is reduced, or expressed only in certain regions of the body, the condition is called leucism. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment, not just melanin. Although not an albino dolphin, Shiro still represents a rare and lucrative find for the dolphin killers and trainers of Taiji.

The Taiji Whale Museum now has three white dolphins in their possession, potentially worth a combined value of approximately $1.5 million USD.

If not for the Cove Guardians currently on the ground in Taiji, no one would know what is happening to these dolphins who have been captured and hidden from the eyes of the world.

Karen Hagen of Norway, now serving as Cove Guardian Leader on the Ground, is a veteran Cove Guardian volunteer who was present in Taiji with Sea Shepherd last January when the super pod of bottlenose dolphins, including the albino bottlenose calf, was driven into the cove. Remarkably, she has now witnessed and documented the capture of all three of these rare dolphins.

Yuki swims with his family for the last time in the cove, before being taken for captivity. Photo: Sea ShepherdYuki swims with his family for the last time in the cove, before being taken for captivity. Photo: Sea Shepherd“It is hard to imagine that another albino dolphin has been taken by the killers here in Taiji. These beautiful and unique animals were minding their business, swimming freely with their pods and doing what comes naturally to dolphins, when they swam too close to Taiji’s shores,” Hagen said.“For that, they have paid with their freedom and, some might say, their very lives,” she added.

This was the 16th pod of Risso's to be slaughtered in the cove this season, bringing the total number of Risso's dolphins brutally murdered to approximately 175. At the current rate of Risso’s capture and slaughter, the season’s Risso’s quota of 261 will soon be reached..

Aside from Risso’s, there have only been two other species brought in this season — one pod of bottlenose dolphins and one pod of pilot whales.

“This has been a very unusual drive hunt season,” said Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader, Melissa Sehgal. “By this time last season, the killers had captured and slaughtered multiple species of dolphins, from pilot whales to Pantropical spotteds, from striped to Pacific white-sided dolphins and more. This year, they have caught 16 pods of Risso’s, one pod of bottlenose and one pod of pilot whales. While we are elated for the dolphins that are not being found, we are extremely concerned that the reason they are not being found is because these species have been driven toward extinction and depleted from Taiji’s waters,” said Sehgal.

For six months of each year – from September until March – entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales at a time are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are hit against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted into the cove, the dolphins and whales face brutal slaughter or a lifetime in captivity. In a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove, remaining pod members — usually juveniles and infants — are driven back out to sea with little hope of survival on their own.

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season, documenting and live streaming every capture and every slaughter for the world to see. The 2014-2015 season marks the fifth year of Operation Infinite Patience, and the Cove Guardians will not stop shining a spotlight on this atrocity until the slaughter ends.

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