by Ben Werdegar
NOTE: The slaughter and torment of dolphins was too urgent for 14 year old Ben Werdegar to take on “when he graduates” – even from middle school. He’s in Japan now hoping to make a difference. Here is his second report for Care2.
Today we witnessed the slaughter of about 9 large Risso dolphins including 2-3 babies, and we helplessly watched one baby dolphin being stripped away from its family and sold into captivity.
It all started with my father and me heading down to the beach at about 8:00 a.m. I brought my guitar because I wanted to bring at least one drop of beauty to this terrible place by playing music here. I was playing guitar on the deserted beach when we ran into 2 ladies from Sea Shepard. They informed us that the fishermen were doing a dolphin drive right now. Ugh!
“Permission” to watch
We peered over the horizon to see about 7 large fishing boats heading back in. They told us that we could legally watch the drive from the top of the mountain and we would have a perfect view of everything going on. We walked up to the top of the mountain to see boats steaming back toward shore.
After about 10 minutes, we were greeted by 2 policemen (carrying guns which is unusual in Japan) and a fireman. They checked our passports, noted our names in some book they were carrying, and had my dad fill out a “Safety Patrol” questionnaire on why we were there. They stayed up there with us the whole time to make sure we didn’t do anything “illegal.” For example, the policeman warned me that if I stepped on the other side of the fence barrier he would arrest me. So, I took out my guitar and started playing for them, with the terrible dolphin drive occurring right behind me. I sat on the fence they had warned me about. Maybe music could bring some rare good luck.
What we saw – and heard
Soon, we could hear the shouts of the fishermen as they got closer and we could see the frightened dolphins trying to swim away from the fishermen. The dolphins stay together, swimming as a pod, which is their family unit. The dolphin drive uses an old method to round up the dolphins and send them swimming scared in the opposite direction. The dolphins’ main sense is sound, and unfortunately in Taiji that is their downfall. The fishermen line up their boats facing the cove, and then they bang with hammerson long metal poles that protrude into the water. We could hear the continuous banging; it was such a haunted sound – a death knell my dad said. It angered me so much to watch this helplessly.
Usually a Taiji dolphin drive takes about 15 minutes through “the chute” which is the path they create to bring the dolphins to the cove, but today the dolphins put up an incredible fight. For about 3 hours the dolphins refused to enter the cove. They kept swimming under the nets that the fishermen had set up to swoop them in. We hoped that the fishermen would just give up since these dolphins seemed to deserve to get away. A woman from Sea Shepherd screamed “let them go!” which is something we all felt.
It seemed that the fishermen were getting frustrated. For a while a helicopter was circling overhead. With all of the police security and helicopters, we heard it is costing the city of Taiji $3 million per year extra now to support the dolphin hunt. That made us feel good, knowing our presence was costing them money.
Photos from Ben and Maurice Werdegar
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