Who's Doing What to Protect Dolphins in Japan

Commentary by Paul Watson
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

There has been some confusion of late as to who is who, and who is doing what to defend dolphins in Taiji, Japan.

The Japanese fishermen and the Japanese authorities see all dolphin defenders as being from one organization or working in a close alliance together to oppose the slaughter of dolphins.

We, at Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, value diversity, and therefore, we welcome as many organizations and individuals to become involved with opposing the dolphin hunt as wish to.   We need diverse strategies and diverse tactics. The dolphins need all the help they can get.      

During the past month, some dolphin defenders and even some journalists have been mistaken by Japanese authorities of being connected to Sea Shepherd.

Sea Shepherd has been tagged as the "radical group" connected to the Taiji campaigns after last year's intervention where two Sea Shepherd crew cut nets to release dolphins and were arrested for the crime of trying to save these intelligent creatures from the violence of the Taiji thugs.  Although we don't see how saving lives and intervening against violence can be remotely seen as "radical," that is the perception held by the killers, and unfortunately, by other people in the conservation and animal defense movements.

Not that we care. We represent dolphins not people.

But, we respect those groups and individuals who are on the ground in Japan trying to expose and/or oppose the dolphin slaughter using different tactics and approaches.  These groups are not connected to Sea Shepherd in any way.

Specifically, I am referring to One Voice from France (whose representatives Ric and Helene O'Barry were recently in Taiji), to Hardy Jones of BlueVoice (who has been documenting the dolphin kills from at least 1979) and to Sakae Fujiwara of the Elsa Nature Conservancy.

 Hardy Jones has just returned from Taiji and Futo. Sakae Fujiwara witnessed the slaughter at Futo on November 12.  Sakae, Hardy, Ric, Helene and others have been harassed by the Japanese, and accused of being with Sea Shepherd.  They are not. They do not send us reports and we do not communicate with them in Japan. None of our crew have met with, spoken with, or worked with these people in Taiji or Futo. Sea Shepherd efforts are completely independent of these three organizations.

For the benefit of the Japanese authorities who monitor this site, let me give a brief history of the Sea Shepherd involvement in this issue.  I first became aware of the killing of the dolphins back in 1979 because of film of the slaughter taken by Hardy Jones. In 1980, my old friend Dexter Cate, (who was with me during the time in 1976 we set-up Greenpeace Hawaii), traveled to Iki Island in Japan representing the Fund for Animals. He cut the nets and freed dolphins and spent months in jail as a result.

In 1981, Patrick Wall (one of my crew on the Sea Shepherd) had gone to Japan as an individual, and cut nets and freed dolphins and was also jailed.

In 1982, I was invited to Iki Island to meet with the fishermen and representatives of the local government. The trip received a great deal of media coverage and the fishermen agreed to a temporary halt in the killing. The dolphin drives were halted from 1982 until 1986. There were also kills at Iki in 1993 and 1996. These drives were motivated by demands from the captivity industry to provide live dolphins. After the live dolphins are extracted for shipment to a marine aquarium facility, the remainder are viciously slaughtered.

In the 1990's, the killing in addition to those cited at Iki continued at places like Ito, Futo and Taiji.  During this time, Hardy Jones worked to document the killing and to promote dolphin watching as an alternative.  Hardy's films of the Futo slaughter aired on CBS News in 1992, and his efforts made headlines around the world in 2001 and 2002. His efforts to build a dolphin-watching alternative to the hunt received a great deal of attention, especially in Japan. He also produced a film for National Geographic on the dolphin slaughter which has aired internationally and most recently in Hong Kong and Australia.

 Unfortunately, despite his efforts, the media has a short memory, and campaigns must be consistently organized to continue to expose this kill internationally.  Sea Shepherd gave this issue a boost in October 2003, when we sent a crew over to document the hunt with orders to intervene if the opportunity presented itself.  Photographs and film of the slaughter taken by our crew were published on the front pages of newspapers around the world, and aired on CNN and television networks worldwide.

Ric O'Barry arrived in Taiji in October 2003 for One Voice. Ric had been involved before, so he knew what he was getting into.

George McInerney, a Japanese speaking European resident of Taiji, was our fifth column agent in Taiji and was a great assistant to our field leader Nik Hensey.

The Sea Shepherd crew were given the opportunity to intervene in November.  Allison Lance Watson and Alex Cornelissen dove into the bay at Taiji and cut the nets holding dolphins that were being held for slaughter. They were arrested and held in jail for three weeks.

This year, One Voice, BlueVoice and the Elsa Nature Conservancy returned to Taiji.   

So have we.

Our crew is working completely independently of any other group and has not had any connection to or communications with them.

Sea Shepherd has set up a reward program to offer $10,000 to the person or persons who documents the most graphic footage or takes the most graphic photos of the dolphin massacre.  Some groups including groups in Japan have protested this. They are free to do so, but we are also not influenced by other groups. Sea Shepherd tactics are Sea Shepherd tactics and as such are our business.  Apparently, the concern is that this tactic will attract people because of money and not because of genuine concern for the dolphins. Our answer is that it is the images we need to continue to embarrass Japan. This tactic may motivate Japanese people to get involved - - and it has.  If other groups don't like what we do, we respectfully request that they implement more effective tactics.

This will continue to be a long struggle. The Japanese are notoriously insensitive to wildlife issues or concerns over species extinction. Any criticism is dismissed as anti-Japanese.

Sea Shepherd is not anti-Japanese. We are, however, pro-dolphin and Japan has declared war on the dolphins. Our treaty of cooperation and intervention is with the dolphins to oppose their mortal enemies, whoever and wherever they might be. At the moment, the nation that kills the most dolphins, inflicts the most cruelty and displays the most insensitivity to the dolphin species is Japan.

I applaud each and every person working on this issue, and support all strategies and tactics designed to oppose or intervene against it.

The Japanese fishermen of Taiji are terrorizing defenseless dolphins with horrific acts of cruelty. The slaughter of thousands of these intelligent creatures is a crime against the future, against the dolphins and against humanity. They are inflicting death and horror in our name. As human beings we have the right, the obligation, the responsibility and the
moral duty to oppose these killers.

The Sea Shepherd Worldwide Day of Protest against the dolphin atrocities at Taiji and Futo is scheduled for November 19th.
(See http://www.seashepherd.org/taiji/taiji_worldwide_protest.html for details).