Due to the new documentary The Cove, the town of Taiji, Japan is suddenly famous, or perhaps more aptly, infamous. Winner of the documentary award at the Sundance Film Festival, the film uncovers a cove in Taiji where over two thousand dolphins are slaughtered every year due to the billion dollar dolphin entertainment industry. Their dolphin’s meat is then labeled as fish and given to children for school lunches, even though as top level predators the meat is heavily tainted with mercury.
The first week of September is when the killing is usually done, but now instead of a cove filled with fishermen and trapped dolphins, it is surrounded by media.
Renowned dolphin trainer and star of the film, Richard O’Barry reports on a blog at the social action network site Takepart.com that on returning to the cove he found the Associated Press, Der Speigel, and The Independent waiting, but even more surprising for O’Barry, Japanese media started showing up.
“You have to understand that this is so important,” he writes. “These TV stations have refused to cover the story in Taiji for years. Now, for the first time, they have shown up, with cameras rolling.”
O’Barry says that he believes the city of Taiji can turn around its terrible reputation: a reputation that that led Broome, Australia, Taiji’s sister city to recently suspend their relationship.
“Taiji can change this image of shame, if they want to,” O’Barry writes. “I will be telling [the media] that the town of Nantucket used to be the capitol of the whale killing industry in the US. Now, it uses its history of whaling combined with whale-watching to market tourism very successfully. Whales and dolphins are worth more alive than dead. Taiji can do this, too. But the killing has to stop.”
So far it seems that the killing has: O’Barry notes that due to the presence of the media there are no fishermen bringing in dolphins from offshore into the cove.
“This is a good day for dolphins,” he writes.
(09/20/2006) As the annual dolphin drive hunts begin in the Japanese villages of Taiji and Futo, a consortium of scientists and zoo and aquarium professionals has launched a campaign to end the practices through public awareness and by appealing to the government of Japan to put an end to the hunts. The “Act for Dolphins” campaign—which includes members from The New York Aquarium, Emory University, and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) —maintains that the hunts, which result in the deaths of thousands of dolphins every year, are inhumane by any ethical standard and should be discontinued immediately.