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Dolphins are piled in a boat near Taiji, Japan, in 2003. The hunt is featured in the Oscar-winning Cove movie. Photograph courtesy Brooke McDonald, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

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Operation Infinite Patience

February 27th, 2013

by Scot Cator & Konrad Szymanski

Taiji is a Japanese coastal town that has become infamous for its practice of drive hunting. This deeply unethical activity results in the mass slaughter of thousands of cetaceans. Sea Shepherd 'Cove Guardians' report on the latest from the killing shores.

The killers of Taiji have been working hand-in-hand with trainers from the Taiji Whale Museum, Dolphin Base, and Hotel Dolphin Resort throughout the season to rearrange the pens located in the Taiji Harbour. However, one day in early February, the killers and trainers had plans additional to simply rearranging pens.

They strategically placed skiffs and a killing boat around the Taiji Harbour pens to hide two unidentified species of dolphins, which were loaded into slings that would ultimately end up attached to the killing boat destined for sea.

Having became accustomed to a dismal life in captivity, these sentient beings were now to be unceremoniously dumped at sea. Here they would have to fend for their lives without the support and guidance of the pod, who were now nothing more than slabs of meat. Their prognosis for survival is very poor; most likely those two dolphins ended up floating lifeless in the home they should have never left – the ocean.

After the killing boat left for sea, the men who remained at port would shift their focus for the rest of the morning to the creation of two new pens to be placed in the Taiji Harbour. These pens were put together with the equivalent amount of care put into dolphin capture - operational, functional, nothing more.

After a day off, the killers returned to assemble an additional pen and again placed it in Taiji Harbour. Unfortunately, it was only too clear to the Cove Guardians that the addition of three pens meant one of two things. Either the large number of Pantropical Spotted dolphins that were observed previously within a netted area of the Taiji Harbour had been secretly transferred, or had died and been rapidly disposed of.

As the men worked on land to manoeuvre dolphins for the captive industry, it soon became apparent that their appetite for cetacean slaughter was insatiable. An obscene climax to the blood lust arose when a pod of 100-110 Striped dolphins were driven into the Cove.

If the 'drive' towards the Cove did not look and feel like a grotesque horror movie, the further actions of the killers did. The pod of Striped dolphins were separated into three groups. As each group entered the killing Cove chaos immediately broke out.

Members of the pod were seemingly cognisant of the killers’ intentions and tried desperately to escape their murderous grip by hurling themselves onto nearby rocks. Killers in dive suits simply swam over and attempted to drown some members of the pod.

As one Striped dolphin leapt onto the rocks it became caught between the nets set up alongside. The dolphin appeared to have injured itself on impact. A nearby killer chose not to ease the dolphin out of the situation but instead grabbed the dolphin by the fluke and ripped it back into the water. This dolphin spent its last minutes alive panicked, writhing in agony, swimming in a circle. 

The waters of the Cove became a darker shade of red with every helpless Striped dolphin slaughtered. Pod members were driven onto the killing shore where a metal rod was driven into their spine to paralyse them. After the rod was removed, a cork was placed in the wound to limit the blood that runs into the Cove. The dolphin is then left to suffocate to death.

After being driven into the Cove, witnessing the death of many family members and swimming in their blood, 20 remaining Striped dolphins were driven back out to sea. Many dolphins do not survive this physical and pscyhological trauma and are later found washed up on the beaches of Taiji. 

The killing resumed early the next morning. Boats surrounded a pod of 17 Risso’s dolphins and trapped them within the confines of the Cove. One pod member tried desperately to swim through the nets, where it only became entangled. It was left to struggle and eventually it drowned. Other members of the pod that attempted to swim unsuccessfully through the nets were untangled, in order that they could be more easily 'driven' to their deaths.

After two days of merciless killings, the Cove remained blue for a week in large part due to heavy rain and wind. On those days the killers took time off - but the Cove Guardians did not. As a result, the acquisition of two Beluga whales from Russia was documented. As with every move in Taiji, the transfer was done in the middle of the night or early morning to avoid Cove Guardian cameras. The two whales were placed in the typical small enclosures in Taiji.They appeared to be very lethargic. An additional traumatic move of these same whales to a different pen, where a large boat and a tarp now hide them, did not go unnoticed by the Guardians.

As of the morning of February 20th, the men were only allowed to kill 3 more Risso’s dolphins this season under the quota allotted by the Japanese Department of Fisheries. However, that morning the Guardians witnessed 10 Risso’s dolphins being driven into the Cove, netted, and paralysed using metal rods. The killers blatantly disregarded the quota allotted for Risso’s Dolphins and every member of the pod wound up dead on the butcher house floor.

Sea Shepherd is committed to continuing to shining an international spotlight on the town of Taiji and this infamous Cove in order to bring to bear worldwide pressure to shut this atrocity down.

As we see this 2012-2013 killing season coming to an end, we continue to have Cove Guardians on the ground here in Taiji. If you or someone you know is interested in joining Operation Infinite Patience next season, please email;

URGENT! Less than 24 hours left to sign Sea Shepherd Conservation Societys two petitions which seek the U.S. Government’s support in upholding conservation law regarding protecting at-risk whales in the Antarctic’s Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and with ensuring safe haven for the organization’s founder, Captain Paul Watson.  

To sign click here.  

Have you heard about the film?

Academy Award® Winner for Best Documentary of 2009, THE COVE follows an elite team of activists, filmmakers and freedivers as they embark on a covert mission to penetrate a remote and hidden cove in Taiji, Japan, shining a light on a dark and deadly secret. Utilizing state-of-the-art techniques, including hidden microphones and cameras in fake rocks, the team uncovers how this small seaside village serves as a horrifying microcosm of massive ecological crimes happening worldwide. The result is a provocative mix of investigative journalism, eco-adventure and arresting imagery, adding up to an unforgettable story that has inspired audiences worldwide to action.

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