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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.
Taiji Hunters Lose, Abandon Pilot Whales Driven Out of Cove After Slaughter of Their Family
The Juvenile Members of the Pod Remaining after Captive Selection and Slaughter were Left to Fend for Themselves; Some May Die of Starvation or Fall Prey to Predators
Taiji’s dolphin hunters attempted to drive the remaining members of a pilot whale pod that was driven into Taiji’s infamous killing cove on September 26 (Japan time) back out to sea on Sunday, but lost sight of the exhausted, stressed whales before they could reach open water. The juvenile pilot whales were abandoned to fend for themselves following the brutal slaughter of most of their family, and may die without the protection of their mothers and pod.
On Friday, Sept. 26, Sea Shepherd’s volunteer Cove Guardians documented and live streamed to the world as a pod of approximately 20-25 short-finned pilot whales was driven into shallow waters by the hunting boats. Once netted into the cove, two young members of the pod were torn from their family and their ocean home to be sold for captivity. The rest of the pilot whales were held for nearly forty-eight hours without food or shelter, being tossed around in the waters of the rocky cove by strong winds and currents.
In the early morning of yesterday, Sunday, Sept. 28, fifteen members of the pod were brutally slaughtered, and their bodies dragged past their surviving family members, toward Taiji’s cetacean butcherhouse. The killers then took a break, and returned to drive the 8-10 juvenile survivors of these traumatic two days back out of the cove. It is likely that they did not want these small pilot whales to count toward their annual quota, as they would not produce much meat to be sold. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians live streamed and documented as the hunters lost sight of the pilot whales, who barely had the energy left to swim. One pilot whale was seen entangled in nets, left without the strength to free itself.
The hunters decided to end any attempts to drive them back out to deeper waters and abandon the vulnerable juvenile pilot whales, who now face a struggle to survive. Without their mothers, they may starve, fall prey to predators or succumb to stress and injuries endured over the past few days. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians will continue to watch for any who may wash ashore in the coming days.
This was the first pod of pilot whales caught thus far during the 2014-2015 drive hunt season. Four pods of Risso’s dolphins have been driven into the cove since the season began on September 1, and approximately 37-40 Risso’s have been slaughtered. On September 20, actress Shannen Doherty was on the ground in Taiji, live streaming with Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians, as one of these pods faced brutal slaughter and one calf was taken and sold for captivity. Doherty also live streamed from Taiji Whale Museum, where “Shoujo” — a rare albino bottlenose calf captured last year — remains captive in a small tank.
For a staggering six months of each year – from September 1 until March – entire family units, or 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. When a large pod is captured, killers and trainers will work side-by-side to select the “prettiest” dolphins or whales (those without visible nicks or scars) for captivity. It is the multi-billion dollar global trade in captive cetaceans that funds the slaughter. The Cove Guardians have repeatedly documented that the captive selection process occurs simultaneously to the slaughter, as those who are not killed for human consumption are sold for captivity, and transported to captive facilities in Taiji or aquariums and marine parks around the world. If there are pod members remaining, they are driven out to sea in a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove. Most are juveniles with little to no chance of survival on their own.
Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians, volunteers who travel from around the world, are the only group on the ground in Taiji every day throughout the entire six-month hunting season. They document and live stream 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 returning to Taiji until the slaughter ends.
The Other Slaughter in the Faroe Islands: the Mass Bird Killings
Commentary by Erwin Vermeulen
The slow growth and large fat stores characteristic of many pelagic seabird chicks might be an evolutionary adaptation to infrequent and unpredictable food provisioning by parents, while increased heat generation and insulation freed adults from brooding requirements.
It is one of nature’s great survival tactics, but relatively helpless, fat seabird chicks have always attracted hunter-gatherers. Historically, birds were taken for meat, eggs, skins, and down. With maybe the exception of skins, they are still “harvested” for these reasons but the methods have changed over time. More efficient tools have exposed seabirds to excessive exploitation.
By nature, most seabirds are already sensitive to adult mortality because they produce small clutch sizes and have delayed maturity, while also being exposed to extreme weather conditions. Until the 20th century, human communities were small and hunting was done primarily from non-motorized boats and so likely had only a limited impact on seabird populations. Since then, a growing human population, with mechanized transport and powerful guns, has increased the hunting pressure on seabird populations.
Seabirds are important “members” of the marine ecosystems. Seabird numbers can be used as indicators of fish stocks, or the health of the marine ecosystem at large.
Sadly seabirds are also among the most threatened “families” of birds on the planet. Most seabirds live for decades and reproduce slowly. The leading cause of mortality for healthy adult seabirds is incidental death in fishing gear. In Iceland, the Faroes’ Northern neighbor, approximately 120,000 birds die in gillnets annually. There are no figures for by-catch in the Faroese fishing industry.
There is a relatively new threat: large-scale, climate-related ecological changes have disrupted the food web in Nordic waters. The distribution of some of the marine food sources, upon which seabirds are dependent, is changing as a result of climate change. In the North Atlantic, a northward shift in the distribution of plankton and copepods is affecting the numbers and distribution of some fish species that are important for the seabirds, particularly sand eels. These changes are believed to be the cause of the massive breeding failures among seabirds in Iceland, the Faroes, Scotland, and Norway, that started in 2004.
Over recent years, a decreasing number of birds have shown up in the colonies, and local populations are in trouble with few chicks being raised. This is the case in the Faroe Islands:
Some summers the few Arctic terns that breed, leave their eggs and young to die. If the Kittiwakes have a few fledged young, the question is whether these young will survive through their first winter, since they start life in poor condition. At times, dead or half-dead, starved Puffins drift ashore on the beaches with the onshore wind.
2014 will mark the 10th year in a row with little to no food for the Faroese puffins. The local hunters have only caught breeding birds the last 10 years, since there haven’t been any young. This means an ever-bigger reduction in the population than would occur in normal bad-breeding years.
Calculations in Røst, Norway show that the puffins there decline by 7% per year. At that rate the Faroese puffins would be extinct around the year 2025 if the hunting goes on. Officially the puffins are protected now, but our volunteers on the ground in the Faroes still see “harvested” puffins in the villages.
Puffins are not the only species hunted. On land, the traditional way of “fowling” is by using the fleygastong — a net between two thin arms on a long pole. This method is used for hunting puffins and fulmars. At sea, newly fledged fulmars are picked up from boats using a deep landing net. Shooting occurs at sea in winter and the species hunted are shags, guillemots (or murres), razorbills and puffins. Common guillemots and puffins have been the most important for generations.
Once the common guillemot was the most important target, but a heavy decline in the population started in the late 1950s. It is now only allowed to take the eggs of the common guillemot with permission from the Faroese Museum of Natural History. In total 1,000 to 2,000 common guillemot eggs are taken each year.
Approximately 2,400 pairs of gannets breed on Mykineshólmur, Píka and Flatidrangur on Mykines, the most westerly island in the Faroes. Men from Mykines annually catch several hundred fledged gannet chicks, called “grásúla,” at the end of August or start of September. The corpses are divided between the landowners and hunters.
On Skugvoy traditional seabird hunting and chick collection of Manx shearwater is still practiced to some extent. Monitoring data indicates a decline in breeding success and bird numbers there.
With the puffin and guillemot almost gone, over the last few decades fulmars have been the most important bounty, with a yearly hunt of about 50,000 to 100,000 birds, most newly fledged young. As is well known practice in fisheries, when one species is exhausted, we just increase the hunting pressure on the other available species.
A gull-like relative of albatrosses and shearwaters, the Northern fulmar is a bird of the Northern oceans. It is a long-lived bird — more than 30 years — that begins breeding at an exceptionally old age for birds. Most do not breed until they are at least 8 to 12 years old. The fulmar is monogamous, and forms long-term pair bonds. It returns to the same nest site year after year. The Northern fulmar breeds on steep cliff sides, where a single egg is laid in May. That same month the eggs are “harvested” in several places in the Faroe Islands.
The Northern fulmar is currently one of the most numerous seabirds in the Northern Hemisphere, with an estimated population of 5-7 million pairs.
It is well known among commercial fishermen for scavenging offal thrown from whaling and fishing boats. It was long thought that this adaptation to the rapid expansion of commercial fishing and whaling in the last century boosted the increase in the population of fulmars and now that new mechanized methods of processing fish at sea have reduced the amount of refuse the numbers of these birds have begun to decline again.
New studies suggest that, while fisheries waste is an important food source for fulmars in some areas, it was not the only cause for the population expansion. A very logical explanation that hunters don’t like to hear is that fulmar expansion could have resulted from a decrease in human predation. In the 17th century, the population outside of the Arctic was believed to occur at just two sites: St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides and Grimsey off northern Iceland. During the 19th and 20th century, fulmars spread from Grimsey to the coast of mainland Iceland, and colonized the Faroe Islands between 1816 and 1839. In the early 20th century, island communities on Iceland, the Faroes and St Kilda took fulmars to provide the people with supplies of oil, down and meat.
Icelandic government statistics recorded annual catches of 20-60,000. Estimates of Faroese catches in the 1930s were even higher at 80,000 per annum, and those from St Kilda were in the 6-10,000 region. The harvests on St Kilda, Iceland and the Faroes had all decreased dramatically by the end of the 1930s. St Kilda was evacuated, and legislation in Iceland and the Faroes banned the harvest of young fulmars following their identification as a source of psittacosis infection. A rapid expansion of the fulmars followed.
Over the past three decades harvest levels have declined drastically in the Faroes, Iceland, and Greenland by up to 50%. A combination of more restrictive hunting regulations and declining seabird populations are thought to have caused this.
The Fulmar hunt starts around the third week of August and lasts into the second week of September. Many of the boats catch between 100 and 300 fulmar young each day and the boats from towns like Hvannasund, close to the biggest fulmar colonies, take as many as 900 young fulmars each day.
While patrolling with the Brigitte Bardot and the small boats, we could see the locals scoop up hundreds of fulmar chicks each day. The young are not helpless, as they paddle and flap out of the way of approaching vessels and resist attacking skuas, but they are no matches for the fast maneuverable boats with nets on long poles. Some men kill the birds by swinging the body around while holding the head; others pull the head straight off.
When the grind took place in Sandur, the fishery patrol/search-and-rescue vessel Brimil was not there to defend it against Sea Shepherd volunteers as it had been during the almost-grind at Hvalba a few weeks earlier. Instead the Brimil had both of its navy ribs in the water, the crew equipped with nets, to kill fulmars in the waters north of Vagar Island.
All those boats out on the water killing fulmars also pose a threat to the pilot whales. August is statistically the bloodiest month of the grind hunt season for a reason. The bird-killing boats will report sighted pilot whales and partake in a grind.
Even though news articles claim that there are many more “havhestaugum” (fulmar chicks) this year than there have been in the last 3 years, and that the numbers are also above average for the last 14 years, the fulmar numbers in the Faroe Islands have decreased drastically over the last 20 years.
There is one interesting parallel between the fulmar and pilot whale hunt; the consumption of the meat exposes the locals to health risks.
Chlamydophila psittaci was detected in 10% of 431 fulmars examined from the Faroe Islands in 1999. The bacterial disease is transmitted by inhalation, contact or ingestion among birds and to mammals. Psittacosis in birds and in humans often starts with flu-like symptoms and becomes a life-threatening pneumonia. During the winter of 1929–1930, widespread epidemics of chlamydophilosis (psittacosis) occurred in Europe and the United States. From the Faroe Islands, 174 cases of human chlamydophilosis were reported between 1930 and 1938. The human death rate was 20% and was especially high — 80% — in pregnant women. The disease originated in Argentina and was exported from there by shipments of pet birds. Infected and dead parrots were thrown overboard during the journey and, in that way, infected the fulmars. The first human case in the Faroes appeared on the southernmost island of Suduroy. From 1933 to 1938 severe outbreaks occurred on Sandoy and other islands.
In Iceland, the first human chlamydophilosis cases linked to fulmars were reported on the Vestmanna Islands in 1939. In all, six cases were reported; all occurred after birds had been prepared for human consumption. After the outbreaks, hunting fulmars for human consumption was prohibited in 1938 and the ban lasted until 1954 in the Faroes.
If it is an incentive to end the killing, that is great, but the fact that the consumption of these animals is bad for the human health should not be the reason to end the hunts. Comprehensive and complex changes are taking place in the marine ecosystem, underlining more than ever the need to manage all factors that affect seabirds and marine mammals: climate change, commercial fisheries, oil spills and oil exploration, hunts and pollution.
There are no hunting statistics in the Faroes and only poor population estimates, so any claim of sustainable hunting is bogus. For those who have seen the bird cliffs in the Shetlands or Spitsbergen, it is clear that those in the Faroes pale in comparison.
Today the seabirds are, just like the pilot whales, hunted for cultural and recreational reasons, rather than for basic subsistence.
With all the other threats facing seabirds and marine mammals, these barbaric relics will have to go!
Pilot Whale Slaughter Imminent in the Cove in Taiji, Japan
Tune in today at 1:30 pm PST for Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian live stream at: http://livestream.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/
live streaming from the shores of the killing Cove in Taiji today, as they bear witness to the fate of a pod of 20 – 25 pilot whales captured yesterday and netted off in the Cove. It is the fifth wild pod of dolphins captured this season and this season’s first capture of pilot whales.Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardian team on the ground in Taiji, Japan will be
Two juveniles were kidnapped yesterday from their family for a life in captivity and placed in holding pens in Taiji harbor. The remainder have been held overnight, huddled together in fear and confusion without food or shelter for more than 16 hours. Pilot whales are not often selected for captivity and it is likely all but perhaps the tiniest babies will be brutally slaughtered for human consumption, despite the fact that their flesh is tainted with neuro-toxic mercury and other contaminants. The matriarch (leader of the pod) is the largest and most financially valuable because she yields the most meat, and is therefore usually the first to be killed. As they are so small, the babies are typically not of value to the killers, so they will likely be dumped at sea without their mothers, left to fend for themselves. Without the safety of their mothers or podmates, these babies often starve to death or become prey for other animals if they survive the brutal capture and release process.
The slaughter of thousands of dolphins, porpoises, and small whales occurs in Japan each year. In Taiji, starting on September 1st and usually continuing through March of the following year, fishermen herd whole families of small cetaceans into shallow bays and mercilessly stab them to death with a metal spike inserted into their backs to sever their spinal cord. They slowly bleed to death or drown in their own blood. These inhumane, brutal killings would not be allowed in any slaughterhouse in the world.
Taiji’s annual slaughter of dolphins was virtually unknown until 2003 when Sea Shepherd — a leading, international, non-profit marine conservation organization — globally released covertly obtained footage and photographs of the now infamous bloody Cove. The Cove Guardians is the only group to have had a team on the ground in Taiji for every single day of the six-month killing season since first beginning an official campaign there in September of 2010.
Tune into the live stream at 1:30 pm PST today at: http://livestream.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/. Note that Taiji has gone to great lengths to hide their so-called “culture” by limiting our vantage points, but we will show every view that we can so the worldwide livestream audience can witness this atrocity in the hope they will be spurred to action.
Operation GrindStop Update: Faroese Court Hearings Delayed
Both Faroese court hearings for a total of eleven Operation GrindStop 2014 volunteers have been postponed. Again.
who were arrested in Sandoy August 30th in connection with the grind, appeared in court today. After more than seven hours of questioning, the case was continued to October 13th.The eight Operation GrindStop boat crewmembers,
The case of the Spitfire and its three crew, who were arrested September 17th as they helped divert hundreds of dolphins back out to sea, has been postponed from Friday, September 26th, to October 2nd.
The prosecutor is asking the judge to deport all eleven Sea Shepherd volunteers and ban them from the Faroe Islands for one year. Police are still holding all the Sea Shepherd boats involved. The court will consider whether to keep the boats and auction them off in the Faroes.
For background information, please read our previous news update: Sea Shepherd Crews to Appear in Faroese Court this Week
Sea Shepherd Crews to Appear in Faroese Court This Week
Eleven Operation GrindStop 2014 volunteers will have their day in court this week. The three-woman crew of Sea Shepherd UK’s boat, the Spitfire, was due in court Wednesday, but the hearing has been postponed to Friday, September 26th.
The Spitfire crew helped divert a large pod of hundreds of Atlantic white-sided dolphins away from the dangerous killing beaches of the Faroe Islands September 17th. Faroese officials did not call a grind, but Danish Police charged the Spitfire crew with failure to report the dolphin sightings to the grind master and police and, ironically, with “harassing dolphins.” The Spitfire and the crew's passports were seized.
Eight Operation GrindStop boat crewmembers, who were arrested in connection with the grind August 30th, will be in a Torshavn courtroom tomorrow, September 25th. They were arrested on the Faroese island of Sandoy for attempting to protect 33 pilot whales, who were killed in a brutal, mass slaughter. Police also seized three Sea Shepherd small boats.
Six Operation GrindStop land crewmembers were also arrested during the August 30th grind, and were all found guilty of disturbing public order and hindering the hunt of pilot whales. Three were found guilty of ignoring police orders. All six were ordered deported. Four of the six had previously been scheduled to leave the Faroes shortly after the incident and have since done so. The remaining two, Maggie and Sergio, were escorted by police to the airport and deported out of the Faroe Islands on Tuesday, September 23.
Check back for updates on both court hearings later this week.
Shannen Doherty Bears Witness and Live Streams Brutal Dolphin Hunt During Visit to Taiji
Doherty and Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians also Live-streamed from Taiji Whale Museum, Where the Albino Calf ‘Shoujo,’ Captured Last Year, is Held Captive
Actress Shannen Doherty, best known for her starring roles on the hit television series “Charmed” and “Beverly Hills 90210,” has just returned from a trip to Taiji, Japan where she served as a Cove Guardian with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, documenting the brutal drive hunt and slaughter of dolphins in Taiji’s infamous killing cove.
On September 20, Doherty bore witness as the hunters quickly drove a pod toward Taiji Harbor and netted the panicked dolphins into the cove. Doherty live streamed the hunt along with Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians, shining a worldwide spotlight on what the hunters try to keep hidden behind tarps: the capture and slaughter of intelligent, socially complex dolphins and small whales.
The entire pod — the fourth pod of Risso’s dolphins to be driven into the cove thus far this season — was quickly slaughtered, except for one juvenile calf who was kidnapped and sold into what amounts to slavery in the captive industry.
Shannen Doherty said after witnessing the brutal hunt, “I sit at home and I watch the live streams from Sea Shepherd and I thought that I was prepared, and there is absolutely nothing that can prepare you because you’re here and there’s an eeriness to it. Especially after they’ve been slaughtered — the lapping of the water, the dead calm, people start walking away. It’s eerie. And you just wonder how they [hunters] are able to go to bed at night. …I think being here rocks even the most hardened human being, because it is just atrocious.”
Speaking about how the dolphins suffer and the lengths to which the killers go to hide the suffering from the world, Doherty said: “It is a completely undignified, undeserving, horrific death, and they [the hunters] know it because they block us and they prevent us from showing the brutality, the completely inhumane slaughter of these creatures that are honestly a gift from God, and what are we [as humans] doing?”
In addition to witnessing the brutal hunt at the cove, Doherty also visited Taiji Whale Museum — one of three captive facilities in Taiji — and live streamed to viewers around the world as she showed the dismal living conditions of the captive cetaceans, including a rare albino bottlenose calf captured from a pod of more than 250 bottlenose dolphins last year. The calf, named “Shoujo” by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson, was kidnapped from her mother, presumed amongst the members of the pod who were slaughtered, and was the first of the pod to be captured for captivity, as the killers and trainers instantly recognized the rare albino dolphin as a lucrative find for the captive industry. Some estimate her eventual sale could fetch $500,000 for the killers.
“The brutality of Taiji’s hunt does not end with the dolphins and whales slaughtered in the cove. The suffering continues for those who are taken from the ocean and imprisoned for captivity,” said Shannen Doherty. “It was emotional to join the Cove Guardians at Taiji Whale Museum, and see Shoujo and the other dolphins in these small, barren tanks where they will spend the rest of their lives. They’ve already endured so much, witnessing the deaths of their families.”
Doherty and the Cove Guardians were outside Taiji Whale Museum as the Risso’s dolphin taken captive from the pod slaughtered earlier that day, was transferred there from the captive pens in Taiji Harbor. With no regard for the well being of the dolphin they just captured because it is a “replaceable commodity,” the dolphin trainers cruelly said that unless the Cove Guardians stopped filming, they would hold the calf in the tiny, dark crate in which it was being transported until closing time, when there would be no choice but to leave. Though the Cove Guardians were acting within the law by being present and documenting, the Sea Shepherd volunteers opted to stop filming and leave the location so that the suffering of the dolphin would not be prolonged. The trainers have once again shown their heartlessness, as well as the undeniable connection between the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji and the captive industry.
After witnessing the brutality of the dolphin drive hunt on Sept. 20, the following day Doherty was elated to be able to live stream the hunters’ boats as they returned to harbor empty-handed from their hunt. A ‘blue cove’ day was called and it was the perfect way to end her brief but busy visit.
For a staggering 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. When a large pod is captured, killers and trainers will work side-by-side to select the “prettiest” dolphins or whales (those without visible nicks or scars) for captivity. It is the multi-billion dollar global trade in captive cetaceans that funds the slaughter. The Cove Guardians have repeatedly documented that the captive selection process occurs simultaneously to the slaughter, as those who are not killed for human consumption are sold for captivity. If there are pod members remaining, they are driven back out to sea in a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove. Most are juveniles with little to no chance of survival without the protection of their mothers. Some face death by starvation, while others may fall prey to predators.
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 consecutive year of Operation Infinite Patience, and the Cove Guardians will not stop returning to Taiji until the slaughter ends.
Sea Shepherd to Host “Taiji Dolphins: The Truth Behind the Tarps” Photo Exhibit in Las Vegas This Weekend
Join Sea Shepherd Crew for This Special Free Event Featuring Powerful Images Taken by Our Cove Guardians In Taiji
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will bring the powerful photo exhibition, “Taiji Dolphins: The Truth Behind the Tarps” to Encore at the Wynn Las Vegas this weekend, displaying a gallery of 25 stark and graphic images captured by Sea Shepherd’s international volunteer crew of Cove Guardians during the annual Operation Infinite Patience dolphin defense campaign.
Join us for this visually enlightening experience, in an effort to defend and conserve the oceans of the world! This is a special opportunity to see the cove through the eyes of the Cove Guardians.
Operation Infinite Patience was established in 2010, and each year since, the Cove Guardians have maintained a permanent presence during the six-month-long killing season in Taiji, Japan.
Sea Shepherd’s first Taiji Dolphin Defense Campaign took place in 2003 when our volunteer crew filmed and released to the world for the first time shocking images of what was really happening in the tiny town of Taiji: sentient, intelligent dolphins being slaughtered in droves.
At that time, our activists were involved in an incident involving the liberating of fifteen dolphins, who had been netted-off and were awaiting a brutal death. Sea Shepherd volunteers were arrested for cutting the nets and saving the dolphins’ lives. As a consequence and condition to free our crew, Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson, promised not to send Sea Shepherd volunteers to Japan with the intention of breaking the law. We honor that pledge to this day.
While our tactics have changed, our resolve has not. Many people think that the Taiji dolphin slaughter ended after the release of the Academy Award-winning 2009 film, "The Cove." Sadly, the killings and captures continue. In the 2012 – 2013 (September – March) killing season, approximately 1,486 dolphins were driven into the cove; 899 were killed and 247 were sold into captivity for display at aquariums and swim-with-dolphin experiences around the globe. Our presence in Taiji is clearly felt by the Japanese government, which deploys police and Coast Guard personnel to closely monitor our activities and obstruct our activities whenever possible. The dolphin killers now employ an elaborate system of tarps to try and hide their dirty deeds from the watchful eyes and camera lenses of our Cove Guardians, though the pools of blood that turn the cove from blue to red are not so easy to hide.
Please join Sea Shepherd staff and crew as those tarps are “lifted” this weekend at “Taiji Dolphins: The Truth Behind the Tarps.” The gallery is free and open to the public September 19-21. Meet special guests M/Y Steve Irwin Chief Engineer, Erwin Vermeulen, who was jailed in Taiji in 2011, and Scott West, former Cove Guardian leader and Sea Shepherd USA's Director of Intelligence & Investigations. We hope to see you there!
Actress Shannen Doherty Arrives in Taiji to Join Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians
Shannen Doherty, known for her starring roles on the hit television series “Charmed” and “Beverly Hills, 90210,” has arrived in Taiji, Japan to join Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s dolphin and small whale defense campaign, Operation Infinite Patience.
Doherty arrived in Taiji Friday afternoon (Japan time) and for several days will stand with Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians along the shores of Taiji as they document and live stream to the world the brutal drive hunt and capture of dolphins and pilot whales in Taiji’s infamous killing cove. Doherty, a dedicated supporter of Sea Shepherd, will bear witness with the Cove Guardians and shine a bright, international spotlight on the atrocities committed against cetaceans in Taiji.
“We are thrilled to have Shannen Doherty join the Cove Guardians in Taiji. Her presence will bring worldwide attention to what is happening to these intelligent, socially complex marine mammals in the cove, and help apply even more pressure on Japan to end the killing,” said Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Leader, Melissa Sehgal. “On Valentine’s Day, Shannen joined Sea Shepherd for our ‘World Love for Dolphins Day’ demonstration in Los Angeles, along with thousands of people in cities around the world. Now she has kindly joined Sea Shepherd in Taiji, bringing her love for dolphins to the frontlines to protect them.”
After a streak of fifteen ‘Blue Cove’ days since the start of season — in which no cetaceans were driven into the cove — three consecutive pods of Risso’s dolphins have now been slaughtered in Taiji in the last three days. Showing no mercy, the killers of the Taiji Fishermen’s Union slaughtered the entire families of Risso’s, who clung together in their panicked, final moments in the cove, and dumped juvenile calves back out to sea to fend for themselves without the protection of their mothers or pods. Doherty joins the Cove Guardians just as this brutal annual hunt begins and the cetacean killers of Taiji truly display their heartlessness to the world.
“I am very grateful to finally have a chance to visit Taiji’s infamous cove. I hope my presence will bring more attention to the heinous atrocities that occur here for six months of every year. Because of their intelligence, playfulness and beauty, dolphins are among the most widely beloved animals on Earth. They don’t deserve such a horrible fate. It’s time to stop spilling blood in the cove,” said Doherty.
For a staggering 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. When a large pod is captured, killers and trainers will work side-by-side to select the “prettiest” dolphins or whales (those without visible nicks or scars) for captivity. It is the multi-billion dollar global trade in captive cetaceans that funds the slaughter. The Cove Guardians have repeatedly documented that the captive selection process occurs simultaneously to the slaughter, as those cetaceans who are not chosen for a lifetime of imprisonment in captivity are viciously slaughtered for human consumption before the eyes of their family. If there are pod members remaining, they are driven out to sea in a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove. Most are juveniles with little to no chance of survival without the protection of their mothers. Some face death by starvation, while others may fall prey to predators.
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 returning to Taiji until the slaughter ends.