Iconic dolphin activist Ric O’Barry will return to Taiji, Japan, on September 1, 2012. The founder of Save Japan Dolphins and star of the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove, will be accompanied by a team who will hold vigil for the many thousands of dolphins brutally killed in the shallow waters of a national park in Japan over the last decades. As shown in the 2009 film, migrating dolphins are herded into a cove, which is then netted off, and the dolphins are stabbed to death. The meat, heavily laden with toxic mercury, is then sold for human consumption.
While O’Barry and his colleagues stand vigil in Taiji, thousands of activists will be taking part in Japan Dolphins Day 2012 events around the world. Peaceful protests are currently scheduled on August 31 and September 1 in 82 cities across the globe. Many of the events will take place in front of Japanese Embassies. Activists seek to draw international attention to the plight of the Taiji dolphins and to urge the government of Japan to let the dolphins live and be free.
The drive hunts generally run from September through March. From September 2011 to April 2012, 848 dolphins were herded into The Cove. According to reports published by Ceta-Base, 719 of these animals were killed. This number represents a slight decline compared to the previous year’s hunt in which 1,297 were captured and 849 were killed. The animals not killed are generally trained and sold to captive facilities around the world.
In an exclusive interview with Examiner.com, O’Barry comments, “I really see progress in Taiji. I know the numbers, I know that the dolphin meat sales have dropped dramatically in the last four years.” He attributes this largely to the toxic mercury in the dolphin meat. “We are able to get to the Japanese people with the mercury contamination issue, and I see measurable results.” O’Barry adds, “That’s what keeps me going.”
The Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS), whose founder Louie Psihoyos directed The Cove, reports, “From 2000 to 2002 scientists from the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido sampled commercial grade dolphin and whale meat. They found excessive levels of mercury in each of the 137 meats sampled – at least two species had mercury concentrations 160 to 200 times above the limit.”
In addition to the toxic mercury, there are very real concerns that fish and dolphins swimming in the waters off of Japan may also contain radioactive cesium from the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Earlier this week, RT published, “Many question whether fish from the Pacific Ocean and Japan’s coastal waters are safe to eat in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Japanese officials and many scientists say they are, but the data on radiation levels in Japan’s fish stock tells a different story.”
Activists like Erin Thomas, who along with Sammarye Lewis is co-hosting the Japan Dolphins Day 2012 event in San Francisco, California, simply want to see an end to the slaughter and the sale of the toxic meat. This is Thomas’ second year organizing the protest. In 2011, Thomas had the opportunity to speak with students at her son’s elementary school prior to September 1. Said Thomas, “It was amazing to have so many students ask questions about the dolphins and why they were killed.” Afterwards, all 600 of the young people signed a banner asking the Japanese government to end the dolphin hunt. Thomas’ son presented the banner to Embassy officials as part of the September 1 protest. The activist recalls, “We had a great turnout at our peaceful protest, and by the end of the day I really felt like we had made a difference.”
Ric O’Barry is thrilled that Thomas and others like her are taking a stand for the dolphins. Says O’Barry, “It is important to show up.” He urges activists to keep the mercury issue out there, “They can’t argue with the ‘M’ word; it is not debatable.”
Japan Dolphins Day was founded by Save Japan Dolphins. The social media campaign Save Misty the Dolphin is supporting the 2012 events by providing technical assistance to event hosts and by building Facebook “events”. To find an event near you go to Japan Dolphins Day 2012. For assistance starting an event, contact the Administrative Team at Save Misty the Dolphin.