On October 25th 2011 I will be traveling to Japan as a volunteer for Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project, Save Japan Dolphins, to help raise awareness about the annual dolphin slaughter that occurs in an infamous place known as "the cove". I will be there for three weeks.
About 20,000 dolphins are murdered every year throughout Japan. In Taiji, pods of dolphins are chased into a cove by banger boats. These boats are equipped with long metal poles extending down into the water, and by banging on these poles the fishermen are able to create a wall of sound that frightens and disorients the dolphins. Dolphins are acoustic creatures; sonar is their primary sense, so they swim away from this noise as fast as possible, right into a small cove which is then netted off. Most of the dolphins are brutally slaughter in the most inhumane ways imaginable. They thrash about in the bloody water, hear the screams of their dying family members, toss their bodies up on the sharp rocks in an attempt to flee, and know that their fate will soon be the same as those around them. Studies on dolphin brains have shown that their brains have more spindle cells than human brains - spindle cells are what enables emotion; in this case fear, confusion, and loss.
Not all of the dolphins are killed. A select few are "spared" and sold off to a torturous life in captivity, forever carrying the memory of the slaughter of their pod. Most of these dolphins are kept in holding pens until purchased by an aquarium. These pens are within hearing range of the cove, so the captives can hear other dolphins being murdered, day in and day out. It is the captivity industry that financially fuels these dolphin drive hunts. A dead dolphin is only worth a few hundred dollars, while a live dolphin can go for up to $150,000. Remove captivity from the equation and the dolphin drive hunts would no longer be financially viable. The 'blood dolphins' are purchased by aquariums all over the world, and as close to my home as the Vancouver Aquarium (Spinnaker, possibly Hana and Helen). In my opinion, the captives are the ones getting the short end of the stick, not those who are brutally murdered (there are so many links I could throw in here about captivity, but as a starter here's an article about the life of Tilikum, and and a great organization called The Orca Project).
Save Japan Dolphins is working to end this practice through education, documentation of the slaughter, and bringing to light the connection between captivity and dolphin drive hunts. YOU can help end this practice by refusing to by a ticket to a marine park that has captive dolphins.
To learn more about the dolphin drive hunts, watch The Cove and visit www.savejapandolphins.org
Follow along as I embark on the most important (and probably scariest) adventure of my life. Special thanks to Tori Cullins (Wild Dolphin Foundation), Tim and Carrie Burns (Save Japan Dolphins), and everyone else who's been so supportive. See you all on the other side! :)