Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

TaijiIn the last few days there have been a few voices asking the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians to withdraw from the Cove at Taiji, Japan.

The opinion behind this pressure is that the Japanese should address this issue and only the Japanese. Some have even accused the Cove Guardians of being “bullies”.

As proof of this one person even sent me a picture of Cove Guardian Elora West claiming she was “bullying” a fisherman.

I actually had to laugh. Did she really mean to have us believe that a 17 year old schoolgirl was brow-beating a brutal psychopathic dolphin serial killer into crying like some sort of innocent victim.

If this is true, I think we need a brigade of schoolgirls to confront them face to face.

The truth is that no Cove Guardian as ever assaulted or threatened a fisherman.

The fishermen have assaulted and and threatened Cove Guardians.

And yes, some people object to us calling them psychopaths or even serial killers but you have a complete lack of empathy to kill a dolphin and if you do it more than once you are indeed a serial killer. So the name fits and for that we have no apologies. 

Sea Shepherd is not anti-Japanese. We are passionately opposed to the killing of dolphins and over the years we have confronted dolphin killers from  Japan, the USA, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, and the Faeroes Islands. We do not discriminate as to who we oppose. We see the harpoon, the knife, the rifle and the net and we are blind to the nationality of the hand holding it. We have released dolphins from the nets of American flagged purse seine vessels, from Sea World's nets and we have taken dolphin killers to court in Brazil. 

In fact Sea Shepherd does not even recognize hominid nationalities. We see only Earthlings and those earthlings come in many species.

The Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians are not paid professionals. They are average people from all walks of life, from all over the planet including Japan and they go to Taiji at their own expense because they are driven to do so by compassion.

And by love.

Some people would have us believe that compassion is the crime and that the killers are the victims.

I do appreciate that the Dolphin Project wants more Japanese involvement. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society wants the same thing.

One criticism is that Sea Shepherd is a “western” organization and has no right to intervene.

First of all Sea Shepherd is not a western organization, it is a global organization with active independent entities registered in countries on every continent. We are in China, Singapore, India, South Africa, West Africa, throughout Europe and in North, South, and Central America. We operate from the Antarctic to the Arctic and points in between. 

Secondly the dolphins do not belong to the Japanese people. They do not belong to any group of people. They are part of the Cetacean Nation. They belong to themselves and they have a right to exist independent of humanity and the right to exist unmolested and unharmed by any human community.

In accordance with the United Nations World Charter for Nature all people have a responsibility to uphold international conservation law and to defend nature.

Thirdly, a Japanese organized and led presence at Taiji does not yet exist. The only groups critical of our “western” approach are other “western” organizations.

Fourthly, prior to Sea Shepherd's involvement the Taiji dolphin slaughter was virtually unknown worldwide and especially in Japan. That is certainly no longer the case.

Finally, every single environmental policy change in Japanese history has come about because of (gaiatsu) meaning foreign pressure. Japan stopped using drift nets because we exposed their abuse of drift nets and foreign pressure convinced them to desist from continuing to use them.

There is not even a successful movement in Japan to address the Fukashima disaster yet we are told that this also can only be addressed by domestic opposition despite the fact that it is affecting the health and future of the rest of the world.

The Cove Guardian program was established to do something that no one had ever done before. To be on the ground, day after day, six months a year, to witness, document, and confront crimes against nature.

And the slaughter of the dolphins at Taiji is a horrific crime against nature.

We equate the killing of a dolphin with murder. This is a highly intelligent, socially complex, extremely sentient being with a sophisticated communication ability and recognized cognitive skills. They have brains larger and more complex than our own.

The killing of a dolphin is murder. These are self aware beings that have never harmed humans and in fact many human lives have been saved by dolphins and this is well documented. These are beings that we know have sophisticated linguistic abilities and that we know are highly sensitive and can suffer both physically and emotionally.

People who have not been to Taiji or seen a dolphin slaughter have no idea of how traumatic this is, how emotionally draining it is to bear witness and document such a horror. Yes it's easy to pass judgement when you don't hear the screams or see and smell the blood.

The Cove Guardians need support, not condemnation.

Sea Shepherd has a Japanese membership and we have Japanese crew members and they are exceptionally courageous because if you raise your voice as a Japanese citizen in Japan you literally invite persecution and not just to yourself, but also to your family.

What have Sea Shepherd and the Cove Guardians accomplished?

In 2003 we exposed this atrocity to the world, getting the video on CNN and the photos on the front pages of newspapers around the world. That same year we cut the nets and released 15 dolphins that would have died the next morning.

Ric O'Barry, who was a member of our 2003 crew at Taiji resigned from Sea Shepherd's advisory board and returned to Taiji on his own because he said that cutting the nets and releasing dolphins was illegal and not the way to go about it. He was right, our crew were jailed and fined and although we felt the lives of 15 dolphins was worth the cost, we knew that we could not continue to release dolphins  because it was not practical to do so.

The organization Blackfish attempted to free dolphins a couple of years ago but failed to do so with the unfortunate consequence that security was greatly increased at Taiji.

Taiji, because it is actually in Japan and is heavily policed provides us with unique challenges and the only strategy that we could see that had a possibility of success was the Cove Guardian program.

Thus we launched Operation Infinite Patience. We knew this would not be won overnight.

Thus taking into account the advice of Ric O'Barry, we made the decision to respect Japanese law and to conduct a non-violent legal intervention and that is what the Cove Guardians now do.

Sea Shepherd participated in the making of the Cove, the Academy Award winning documentary that did more than anything else to bring the dolphin slaughter to the attention of the world. In the film I am interviewed and our crew is shown releasing dolphins.

And the final reason that makes it important for the Cove Guardians to be in Taiji is significant, and that is that the annual kill figures have been reduced since the Cove Guardian program was initiated. Why? Because of all the measures the fishermen must take to keep away from the cameras. Costs have also increased especially policing costs.

The Cove Guardians also follow and track the removal and transport of the captive dolphins to captive facilities.

With the Cove Guardians every drive is documented. Remove the Cove Guardians and Taiji will quickly slip out of sight and out of mind except for a couple of demonstrations a few times a year.

The Cove Guardians are there at their own expense and on their own time and on their own dime to make sure that the world's eyes never leave the Cove.

And the Cove Guardians have shared tragedy with Japanese citizens. A Cove Guardian team under the leadership of Scott West was in the north investigating dolphin kills when the tsunami stuck. He and his team narrowly escaped with their lives and worked to save the lives of Japanese citizens. They more than most non-Japanese understand the tragedy that struck Japan. For more twenty-four hours we thought we had lost them to that horrific deluge.

One critic in Taiji berated one of the Cove Guardian volunteers the other day saying, “what are you taking pictures for, to raise money?”

It was quite unfair and ignorantly insensitive. She was there at her own expense devoting her time and energy to the cause. The person criticizing her was there for only a couple of days and had not even seen a single dolphin slain. He had no idea of the emotional pain the Cove Guardians must endure for days on end.

Sea Shepherd does not send out mass mailings with gory pictures asking for money nor do we spend funds on ads or commercials. We are not that kind of organization. We're grassroots and we're relatively small but most importantly we do not spend large amounts of money on promotion and membership recruitment. We have grown slowly over the years by word of mouth, by visits to our ships, by meeting people on campaigns or from people who see us on Whale Wars or in the media. That is why we have such a high rating with Charity Navigator, a watchdog agency that monitors charitable organizations.

Sea Shepherd is willing to work with any and all organizations working to stop the slaughter of the dolphins and we support the efforts of The Dolphin Project, Save Japan's Dolphins and Surfer's for Cetaceans.

It is unfortunate that none of the large organizations are involved.

And Sea Shepherd has the highest praise for the Dolphin Project and the life work of Ric O'Berry. I've known Ric personally since 1976 when he was in Japan with my friends David Garrick and Taeko Miwa. I have attended conferences and meetings with him. We have had our disagreements but those disagreement have not been bitter. Disagreements over tactics and strategies is simply that, and it has never been personal or antagonistic. Ric is a friend and an ally and he is a very compassionate man.

I would think that if a Japanese organized and led organization were to become involved that the Cove Guardians could withdraw, but the chances of such an organization forming and enduring are very small due to the intense political and social pressure participating Japanese citizens would have to endure.

The leadership of the Cove Guardians has for the most part be taken up by women. I find it hard to believe that Japanese fishermen really feel bullied. It seems they simply want to play the victim in an effort to coax sympathy from the public.

When a critic told me that some Japanese find it offensive having to deal with a woman in such confrontational situations, my response was first I found it hard to believe, and secondly even if true and there is a cultural problem with speaking with and engaging a woman in such a debate, they should bloody well get over it. This is the 21st century and culture is no longer a justification for sexism or racism.

But except for a right wing ultra nationalist, who could possible have sympathy for these brutal killers?

Speaking with many Japanese citizens I have found they, like people everywhere are generally opposed to this brutality. Japanese citizens are just as ethically compassionate as any other group. One of the problems however is that the Japanese media is not informative on these issues and there are deeply ingrained cultural obstacles to questioning authority in Japan as many Japanese citizens have told me.

We are always of course open to alternative ideas and if a viable option is presented we will adapt to changes that could be more successful.

For now however, I see no other course of action than for the Cove Guardians to stay the course and to keep the pressure on and to remind the dolphin killing fishermen that the eyes of the world will remain on them and that never again will they torture and slaughter dolphins in the shadows.

Remember that the Cove Guardians are there in Taiji now and they will be there every day for six torturous months until March and every morning they will watch the dolphin killers leave and the dolphin killers will see that they are being watched and when they return they will see the Cove Guardians watching them return and Cove Guardian cameras will capture the horror of the killing and Cove Guardian microphones will capture the screams of the dying and the Cove Guardian Livestream will broadcast this crime against nature, humanity and the future to the entire world.

One indication that the Cove Guardians are having more of an impact is that the police are getting more hostile and this year they are more hostile than ever. They are frustrated that the Cove Guardians are not breaking laws and giving them an excuse to remove them and the costs of policing get higher every year. Yesterday one of the policemen put his hand in front of the face of one of the Cove Guardians and the response was “why are you doing that? We have not done anything like that to you.”

This is the challenge of the Cove Guardians to keep the eyes and ears of the world focused on one of the most violent and brutal mass killings of marine mammals on the planet and every day more people become aware and the international movement to end this horror grows stronger and this strength translates in to pressure, both foreign and domestic, to end the suffering and the killing.

It is not enough just to witness and document the slaughter, it is also important that the fishermen of Taiji and the politicians in Tokyo know that they are being watched and documented.

With patience we will endure and with courage and hope our passion will achieve the impossible until the now bloody red waters of the Cove run blue every day and the screams of the dying dolphins no longer disturb the serenity of all of our lives, both in Japan and around the world. 

Taiji Appeal