Archive for October, 2010


Dear Ichiro Fujisaki and Readers,

You have reached my tenth and final post for this blog! Congratulations on making it this far (I know some of these posts are quite lengthy) and thank you for taking the time to educate yourself on an issue that deserves your attention. You now have the intelligence to go out and make a persuasive case on the campaign against dolphin slaughter.  Let’s recap on what embodies this education. Hyperlinks direct you to the blog post that expands on the linked subject.

More than 2000 dolphins are killed each year in Japan alone. A majority of this slaughter takes place in a cove in Taiji, Japan. Research supports that dolphins have an incredible capacity for intelligence, self awareness, and memory. Therefore they may even be aware of their fate in the cove! Despite the brutal manner in which these animals are killed, which involves hours of torturing their sonar perception by banging on pipes, the meat is extremely toxic with mercury. This mercury is extremely harmful to humans, as seen in the Minamata case.

The Japanese government refuses to take action to change these policies or warn the Japanese people that their food may be poisoned. Some of the meat is even mislabeled! Promoters of the practice claim that it is a cultural tradition, but common knowledge amongst Taiji civilians about the issue is rare. The angered reaction from Japanese fisherman when the topic is exposed further adds suspicion to this cultural justification.

There are plans that can be implemented to begin the process of excluding dolphin as an edible product. They include restricting fishing policies and banning the distribution of dolphin meat according to health regulations. Even though dolphin does create a large amount of economic profit for Japan, there are more also reasonable plans that provide economic profit without murder. These include eco-friendly tourist outlets like dolphin watches or cruises. However, these plans can only get enough momentum to become a reality if YOU are there to propel it.

Along the journey to reach this final post, you have heard many stories. You have heard my story as an aspiring scuba diver looking to speak up for the ocean. You have heard the story of Frankie, who is one of thousands of people (like me) trying to convince you to stand up and serve as an influential voice on the dolphin campaign. You have even heard the stories of individuals like Hayden Patteniere, Ric O’Barry and Elora Malama, who are taking incredible measures to ensure a safe future for dolphins and the Japanese people. But at the end of the day, it is your story that really matters. I urge you to take the knowledge you have obtained in this blog and spread it for the world to hear. It is time to protect your people. It is time to take a stand. It is time to give dolphins something real to smile about!

Thanks for reading,
Kelsey Anderson

PS.   READERS: The strength behind this campaign does not solely lie in the voice of Ichiro Fujisaki. It lies in yours as well.

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This blog is designed to be a persuasive tool for my readers (ideally including Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki) to become aware of dolphin slaughter in Taiji and join in the campaign against it. Part of this education involves understanding why the practice has reached this point to begin with.

Dolphin meat has been consumed for centuries, chiefly in smaller towns without the agriculture for other food sources. Dolphin teeth also are seen as valuable and even serve as currency in some primitive societies. Therefore, to them, dolphin hunting is not a violent blood bath. It is a way of life.

Below is a snippet (ok, a link, it cannot embed) taken from the Animal Planet TV show, Blood Dolphins, that helps convey this cultural concept. (The show, which was inspired by The Cove, follows Ric O’Barry and his son as they spread awareness and campaign against dolphin abuse. On this episode, they travel to the Solomon Islands to negotiate with the group.)

Please click HERE to view the clip! Sorry I can’t embed it into the post!

Even though this society relies on dolphin for their survival, the tribe was willing to work with Ric O’Barry and his organization to change this cultural habit. Several non-profit organizations, such as Blue Voice and Earth Island Institute, are working with these civilizations to teach them other profitable ways to make money, such as dolphin-watching tours and sustainable fishing practices. Despite the fact that this tradition has been integrated into their survival for centuries, these people are realizing that it is not a necessary or appropriate practice for this time.

That being said, Taiji is not the Solomon Islands. They are a developed and industrialized society within the second richest country in Asia. Taiji cannot make the same claim of economical limits that the Solomon tribe does.

Kihiro, Solomon Islands                  vs.                             Taiji, Japan

Most of the Taiji people are unaware that dolphin slaughter is a common practice.  O’Barry went out into the streets of Taiji and asked 100 residents about dolphin slaughter. All 100 had no idea. Taiji cannot make the same claim of cultural essence that the Solomon tribe makes.

The Taiji people have not been welcoming to viewers who express curiosity about this issue. Politicians look their other way when asked to speak on the topic. Giant warning signs surround the Cove area. Fishermen yell and threaten anyone who approaches the area as well. Protests over The Cove have gotten so agressive that some screenings were cancelled. Taiji has not created the image that the Solomon tribe has. In fact, they almost act as if they are trying to cover the issue up (out of shame or embarrassment, perhaps?)

One of the biggest criticisms of this campaign is that these egotistical Americans are not respecting Japanese culture.  Well, to be honest, I am yet to be convinced that this practice even has a strong cultural root in Taiji, Japan. But even if this is the case, it does not mean it is right. There are other means of economic profit that does not involve endangering the Japanese people as well as destroying a beautiful species. Even though dolphin slaughter was accepted centuries ago, the 21st century is not a place where it is appropriate or necessary.

In any aspect of life, it’s easy to blame and judge someone for something that you view differently. It is easy to sit on this computer and blog to Mr. Fujisaki to make a change. It is easy to show up to a protest on Oct. 14 and shake a finger at the Japanese government for encouraging such a repulsive practice. What’s not easy is to be one of the most famous dolphin trainers in entertainment, essentially promote dolphin captivity, and then flip your views into becoming the most active campaigner against dolphin mistreatment in the world.

Meet Ric O’Barry. O’Barry is best known for shocking thousands of horrified viewers and exposing dolphin slaughter to the world through the documentary, The Cove. However, 38 years ago, he was on “the other side of the dolphin street.” As the lead dolphin instructor on the TV show, Flipper, it was O’Barry’s responsibility to capture, live with, and train the five “Flipper” dolphins throughout the duration of the show. Little did he know that highlighting the personality of dolphins through TV would lead to such ghastly consequences for their species. “I feel somewhat responsible,” he says in the interview below, “because it was the Flipper series that started this multi-billion dollar industry.”

However, it wasn’t until 10 years of dolphin training that this guilt set in. The catalyst was the death of the Flipper dolphin, Cathy, in 1970. According to O’Barry, Cathy’s death was not an accident. “You have to understand,” he says, “dolphins are not automatic air breathers like we are. Every breath for them is a conscious effort. She looked me right in the eye, took a breath, held it — and she didn’t take another one. She just sank to the bottom of the water.”

This event was a wake-up call for O’Barry, who realized that tanks and cages are not an appropriate environment for dolphins. “The next day,” he recalls, “I found myself in a Bimini jail, trying to free a dolphin for the first time.” Since then he has devoted himself to the campaign against dolphin mistreatment, regardless of the dangers he faces in Japan after the release of the Cove. He is involved in many corporations such as the Oceanic Preservation Society and has his own organization you can check out at savejapandolphins.org.

Ric O’Barry is an admirable man, to be sure. But the reason why I devote a blog to him is not necessarily to point out the influence he has on this issue (which is quite a ton, by the way).  The most fascinated thing about O’Barry to me is that he changed. He had one passionate view on the subject and those thoughts shifted dramatically as he learned more about the situation. This gives me hope that people will change in a similar manner. These actions will be stopped.

The question is, how many more dolphins need to lose their lives before it does?

Happy International Save Japan Dolphins Day!
Okay… maybe happy is not the way I would describe it.

Today, October 14,  is the sixth annual Japan dolphin day. In order to honor this, marine activist demonstrations are taking place around the world in front of Japanese embassies and consulates. Hey Ichiro Fujisaki, are you listening? Today is your day to show us that you are open to negotiate a more humane method of economic income. Hey reader, are you listening? Here is your chance to stop reading my blog and start making a difference! The more people who participate in this protest, the more attention we can attract to this issue. The more attention is behind this movement, the more weight it will carry in the political world. The more political pressure, the sooner regulations can be changed to cut off the distribution of dolphin meat and promote eco-friendly tourism like dolphin-watching cruises. Savvy?

Here is a list of cities and locations that are participating in the event. They range from Syndey, Australia to Los Angeles, California. Please join in the campaign for Japan to switch to an appropriate method of profit that does not  involve dolphin slaughter. If you cannot attend, you can take a stand over the phone as well (and I know your phone is near by)! Here is a list of all Embassies and Consulates with phone numbers.

Remember Elora? She and her father have taken this day as an opportunity to try and speak to the Taiji mayor once again. Here is a video of their attempt:

It is amazing to me, even from a public relations standpoint, that the Taiji major does not view this worldwide protest as a large enough issue to address personally. I guess an even more influential voice needs to emerge in order for dolphin treatment to rise on the political priority list **cough cough ICHRIO FUJISAKI cough cough**

However, it is nothing short of incredble that this issue has reached a global stand to begin with. Therefore I would like to take this moment to thank anyone that has stumbled across or made it to reading this post. The fact that you are even educating yourselves about this issue is the first step in putting an end to this disgusting practice. It is important to be aware of the many aspects and influential figures surrounding the dolphin huntng controversy; only then do we have a proper and persusive viewpoint on the issue. Now that you have a basic knowledge of the situation, I encourage you to share this awareness with those around you. You never know what a simple conversation may spark for the future! Good luck, future marine activists! I believe in you! 🙂

Elora Malama

Meet Elora Malama. She is not a celebrity like Hayden. She does not send heart-shaped letters like Frankie. She has no professional, co-ops film crew like Ric. In fact, she’s just a spunky sixteen-year-old girl who likes to write and take pictures. Except Elora’s focus isn’t around cute boys or driving privledges. Her writing is about the issue in Taiji, Japan, her pictures are tainted with the blood of dolphin slaughter, and her mission is to share that with the world.

Elora and her father, a member of the Sea Shepard Conservation Society, traveled to Taiji at the start of September to observe, experience, and hopefully make deals with Japanese fisherman on dolphin hunting regulations. This is where Elora’s blog begins, assuring her readers that she will “post something new every step of the way, and all of it will be through the eyes of a sixteen year old girl.” Psh. Because the eyes of a sixteen-year-old are just FULL of intuition, right?

Elora has certainly kept her promise, religiously blogging her daily experiences as she witnesses dolphin slaughter, stubborn fisherman, her fellow travelers’ efforts, reluctant political executives, shady police officers, and various reactions of the Japanese people to the current situation. She provides continual pictures, quotes, frustrations, hopes, updates, and reactions, all developing as she becomes more involved in the Taiji controversy. One blog talks about the Sea Shepard’s attempt and failure to “buy” a pod of dolphins to release from the Japanese fisherman. Another talks about Japanese fisherman threatening them to be arrested. Another tells a heart-wrenching tale about touching dolphin blood found on the Cove rocks; a sickening reminder of the dolphin slaughter earlier that day. Regardless of the day’s events, (good, bad, or boring) Elora gives each experience a new post of observations.

So what’s the big deal?  There are plenty of blogs about Taiji out there (heck, you are reading one right now), most of whom are not written by teenagers! What Elora has done is unlock a real-time, detailed feed of information and perception about what is going on in Taiji at this very instant. Her only agenda is to document her experiences, therefore providing a sincerity to her posts that is unattainable through the media articles or documentaries. This girl who is barely even old enough to drive is showing the world that it is capable of a better place than this. She is showing Japan that there are peaceful, non-criminal Americans willing to negotiate with them. She is showing activists that there is a new generation to pick up where they leave off. And she is showing us, the average human being, that we have a voice and that voice can make a difference.

Follow Elora’s blog: http://eloramalama.wordpress.com/

Follow Elora’s youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/KahakaiGirl

Ric Barry and “The Cove” film crew are not the only ones fueling the campaign against dolphin hunting. In fact, many celebrities are contributing to the cause as well.

Hayden Panettiere, famously known as the cheerleader on the TV show Heroes, is one of the most outspoken marine conservationists fighting to end dolphin hunting around the world. Panettiere first stirred up Japanese waters in September of 2007, when she and five other surfers paddled out to the Cove in an effort to protest the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan. However, aggressive fisherman broke up the demonstration and then continuing their killings, leaving Panettaire and her friends with nothing but broken hearts and a warrant for their arrest.

Since the situation in 2007, Hayden has found more politically traditional ways to present her message. Panettiere is the international spokesman for the Whaleman Foundation, which is dedicated to the preservation of dolphins and whales. On the right side of my blog is a SocialVibe widgit to support this organization. Patteniere has also traveled back to Japan several times (despite her warrant) to speak with officials and leaders about “finding other ways to generate income and utilize the nature” (CBS News).  Although many officials still refuse to speak with her, Panettiere is able to expose the Japanese people to dolphin controversies in a peaceful and respectful manner. Some demonstrations include creating an outline of a dolphin and diver with people lying down around the border to make the shape.These experiences are documented in her online dolphin diary, as well as in the interview below.

However, Hayden is not the only Hollywood name playing a role in the push for appropriate dolphin treatment and Japanese fishing regulations. Many celebrity endorsements are being used to spread awareness on the mistreatment of dolphins and whales. Here is a public service announcement that utilizes these familiar voices to urge others to take part in the campaign against dolphin hunting.

To take action in the fight against dolphin slaughter, go to:

takepart.com/thecove

Fish are friends, not food. Take it from our friend Bruce here. He vows to be a “nice shark, not a mindless eating machine.” (If only we could all say the same thing, eh?)

Well, dolphins are mammals, but Bruce’s point still stands. If you don’t believe him, then maybe you should listen to the citizens of Minamata, Japan.  In 1956 these individuals were the first group to be exposed to intense Mercury poisoning, but since the condition was unprecedented it was labeled as a “disease.” Victims of Minamata disease experienced numbness or difficulty in limb movement, a narrowed visual field, language or hearing disorders, a skewed sense of equilibrium, tremors, and movement disorders of the eyeballs. These effects drastically increased in newborns and children. In severe cases, people could become mad or unconscious, leading to death.

Since then research has pinpointed these mutations to deterioration of brain neurons as a result of Mercury exposure. To ensure that events like Minamata do not take place again, associations such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency have set up regulations measuring the appropriate level of mercury intake (about 1ppm at the highest). However, recent tests of Japanese whale and dolphin meat have found concentrations of Mercury in the Japanese people up to 18.9ppm! Tetsuya Endo is the conductor of one such study in Taiji, Japan. Endo’s experiments involved taking hair samples from 50 residents to examine their Mercury levels. The results placed the average Taiji citizen about 10 times past the national average of Mercury intake, with some patients showing Mercury levels high enough to match that of Minamata victims! Here is a clip from The Cove expanding on this issue:

Despite these startling outcomes in Japan, the government makes no effort to caution their people of the poison that has become a staple of their dietary habits.  In fact, much of it is mislabeled as whale meat to begin with and used to be served at school cafeterias! Much of the Japanese people are not even aware that they are eating dolphin, let alone that this meat is extremely dangerous to their health!

Bruce the shark has one more line in his vow to be a friendly being. It goes like this: “if I am to change this image, I must first change myself.” In order to avoid another tragic situation like Minamata, the Japanese people must change themselves as well. They must change their economic view, and have this reflected in their buying and consuming practices. However, this can only be done if a Japanese authority takes charge and spreads awareness about the danger that the Japanese people are in. An educational, persuasive, and influential voice must be the one leading a cultural change of such significance.

Will Ichiro Fujisaki please stand up?

A majority of humans are omnivores, and as such, we include some sort of meat in our diet to provide us with appropriate nutrients. Slaughterhouses around the world are designed to butcher animals in order to supply this need. So what makes The Cove in Taiji, Japan any different?  Why should dolphins deserve to be treated with any more rights than the cows, chickens, or pigs that many of us eat daily?

Much behaviorial and anatomical research has been conducted on the intelligence of the dolphin in comparison to that of our own. The results have proven that dolphins are the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans, with scientists suggesting “they are so bright that they should be treated as ‘non-human persons'”. Dolphins have a much larger brain than humans, which, although is not necessarily an indicator of higher intelligence, leaves greater surface area for neurons. A more accurate measure of intelligence is the “encephalisation quotient” (EQ)– or ratio of brain size to body size. A bottle-nosed dolphin’s EQ is 5.6, surpassed only by the human’s EQ of 7.4. Dolphins perceive the world through sonar experience to an extent that they are even able to distinguish a heart beating or a pregnant woman!

The social development and interaction of dolphins also parallels that of humans. Most live in groups for life, learning societal conventions from their mothers and the community. The group will even have distinct clicks and whistles that, like a name, identify each individual. A member creates relationships with their fellow dolphins, from casual friendships to romantic partners. Dolphins are the only species besides humans to have sexual intercourse for enjoyment rather than for reproductive purposes. Learn more HERE!

Dolphins are known for their social interaction with humans as well. Everyone has seen the videos of dolphins hugging, playing, and giving rides to thrilled tourists. However, dolphins are also the only known wild animals that will come to the rescue of a human being. There are many stories of dolphins ganging up around a surfer to save them from an oncoming shark. The BBC dedicated a whole episode of the TV show, Natural World, to this phenomenon. Here is the first section:

Click here to view sections 2/5, 3/5, 4/5,and  5/5

The capability to learn, remember, and pass on knowledge is another remarkable characteristic of this species. Dolphins can understand about 90 commands of American Sign Language, as well as words, sentences, and differences in word order. They can recognize their reflection in the mirror and watch TV with comprehension. One dolphin, Kelly, even figured out how to fool her trainers! When told to clean up the pool, she would hide a piece of trash under a rock in her tank. She would tear off a piece and return it to her trainer for a reward. After being given her reward, she would go back to the hiding place, tear off another piece, and start the process over again. She then taught her calves and fellow dolphins until the whole crew was showing similar behavior. Another story depicts a young dolphin seeing a human observer taking a puff of his cigarette. The dolphin sped off to his mother, swam back to the man, and released milk into the water to create the same “smoke” effect of the cigarette. Dolphins also use their intelligence to entertain themselves, as seen in this video of a dolphin blowing bubble rings:

All of this research and evidence points to one conclusion. Dolphins are in a league entirely different from that of cows, pigs, or chickens and therefore should not be treated as such. Dolphins play. They remember. They interact. They show sensitive and  protective instincts. They learn. They can even plan for the future, as seen in Kelly’s trash tactics. Therefore it is possible that they are aware of their fate when caught in The Cove.

They are a species we can relate to and learn from. They are not to be on a menu or your dinner plate.

Frankie Says

Frankie Churchill is nine years old, but we have a lot in common. We both go to school in California. We both are fans of the ocean. And we both have a message for  Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki.

Sadly, my message doesn’t come inside a hand-drawn heart. Niether did Fujisaki’s answer to Frankie, stating that he “takes note of [Frankie’s] concerns but also wish[es] that [he] understand the many different cultures in the world, many of which have traditions that are different to those found in the United States.” Fujisaki goes on to explain to young Frankie that “most people eat some sort of meat, whether it is hamburger (meat of cow) or some other form.” Hmmm. Touche, Fujisaki. What’s funny is I don’t remember consuming toxic levels of Mercury at my last barbeque.

Ichiro Fujisaki is the US Ambassador for Japan, and as such serves as the ideal bridge of power for an American like me to influence a foreign issue. Revoking or restricting Taiji’s fishing permits would be a monumental step in eliminating the dangerous and disturbing treatment of dolphins in Japan. Including appropriate, eco-friendly tourism like dolphin tours would help supply economic profit in a non-harmful manner as well. Furthermore, getting the Japan Fisheries Agency Food Sanitation Committee to ban meat that contains mercury would cut off the demand for dolphin meat, therefore decreasing dolphin hunting as well. Ichiro Fujisaki holds enough weight in the political system to serve as a persuasive voice in making these changes a reality. I urge that he listens to the messages of people like Frankie Churchill and takes this issue seriously. The safety of the Japanese people and the preservation of a beautiful species needs to be taken into consideration above the success of an economic product.

Here is a link to Fujisaki speaking about Japanese environmental policies and nuclear waste. But what about the waste that his people are consuming daily?

Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki on Going Green