Tag Archive: Taiji


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.

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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?

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?

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

A Post To Get Your Toes Wet

I fell in love with the ocean at the age of 15. My dad and I had just finished our scuba diving certifications and traveled to Cozumel, Mexico to complete our first open water dive. Hours upon hours had been spent watching videos, taking quizzes, pouring over books, and bubbling in tests to prepare for this first breathe underwater. My tank was full. My tank was on. But there is no preparation for the beauty and humbling awe found in the marine world. Unlike the clash and chaos of urban society, each organism swayed along with the gentle waltz of the ocean tide. When crossing a turtle or fish’s path, the animal would slowly turn and glide off with grace. The experience is absolutely unreal. This was the first time the ocean taught me about respect, value, and our individual contributions to a functioning community.

My family and I return to Cozumel every year, but my scuba travels have yet to expand to other locations. However, the ocean and its inhabitants have not stopped educating me. Now it is my turn to take this knowledge and educate others. So here are the facts. Every year, thousands of dolphins and whales are killed. A large contribution to this number occurs in September, when hundreds of dolphins are herded into a cove in Taiji, Japan. A few attractive females are kept for captivity; the rest are slaughtered for meat.


So are dolphins the real “healthy snack that smiles back?”Although this is a practice that some cultures claim as part of their way of life and staple for their economy, dolphins contain dangerously high amounts of Mercury that is known to cause birth defects, retardation, and other genetic mutations. In Taiji, much of this dolphin meat is sold or given to the residents of Japan. Many of the recipients of this dolphin meat are unware of what they are eating, under the impression that is whale meat.In 2009, activist Ric O’Barry created a team of filmmakers, free divers, and activists to go to Taiji and expose the ecological and ethical issues surrounding dolphin slaughter to a wider audience. The result was The Cove, an award-winning documentary that struck the hearts, wallets, and voices of individuals around the world. See the trailer here:

The documentary has stirred quite a bit of controversy and awareness, but it is just one step in the quest to stop the perception of dolphins as an edible product for human beings.  “Ric O’Barry is an old man,” an interviewee explains in the documentary. “There needs to be a new generation to pick up where he leaves off.” This blog is created in the effort to recruit, supply, and educate this new generation. Why? Because it is my responsibility to do so. As a scuba diver, it is my responsibility to demand respect for the creatures that I share the ocean with. As a student, it is my responsibility to educate myself about the world, especially about issues that provoke debate and fervor. As a PR major, it is my responsibility to take a position and use my voice to express that position.  As a citizen, it is my responsibility to exercise my opinions and rights. But most importantly, as a human, it is my responsibility to take a stand when ethical boundaries are crossed, misdirected, or abused, such as the case with the massacre and distribution of Taiji dolphins.

To learn more about this issue and its surrounding controversy go to:

http://www.takepart.com/thecove

http://www.thecovemovie.com

http://www.savejapandolphins.org

or text DOLPHIN to 44144