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Dolphins and September

The other day as we were coming back from our dives in the Yasawa Islands these most magical creatures surprised us once more! Dolphins came rushing out of the water anxiously demonstrating their ability to play with the waves in unison. Just like that, in the wild. No tanks and no training required. Just having my underwater camera, I snapped as many photos as I could trying to catch their speed and the best shot – only succeeded on a couple but a great memory it still is. Seeing this display of playfulness and pure joy always lights us up even more! Majestically they whirled around the front of our boat, leaping in and out, dipping down and coming up in more numbers… Always an absolutely awe inspiring and beautiful sight! 

As they followed us for just about 5-8mins we kept telling them to head south or east and stay away from Japan. A silence set on us for a bit. We felt heavier – helpless. Their beautiful eyes that catch our eyes in that split second as they come out of the water in search of our affection woke up a realization that as much as we try we won’t be able to prevent again for this year. The deplorable reason that September 1st marks the start of the barbaric Taiji Drive Hunt 2016 for the “season of torture and slaughter” that lasts for 6 months. A practice where the Taiji fishermen first terrify these innocent and beautiful creatures by banging very loudly and relentlessly on the special underwater rods on their boats and lead them to confusion in the open waters so they are too confused to swim away and are driven into a cove where they are ruthlessly slaughtered in the most primitive of ways – by driving rods into their heads and backs while witnessing the brutal end of their families. If you’ve watched the cove – you know that all too familiar sight of the “blood cove”. If you haven’t – you can spare yourself the images but be informed of the reality of what takes place.
These creatures are scientifically proven to be the most intelligent beings in the water and even on earth – closest to humans. They breed with a chosen mate, rear their calves in a pod of 2-40 members protecting the family, females live with their mothers through their lives… They have true bonds. They talk. They sing. They play. Just like us.
Pods have been caught on video protecting humans in the open oceans and even dogs from drowning. They show mercy and remorse. And their numbers are dwindling. The bottlenose dolphins that appear so plentiful are nearing endangered status as are Risso’s dolphins. Their main threat and biggest predator: humans. We leave them dead in the waters as “by catch” in tuna nets and false hooks while fishing for larger mahi mahi etc. We capture them and throw them in tanks for the sole purpose of placing them in a profitable human entertainment business. 
Their dwindling numbers mean that we are risking the ability of our future generations to interact with them in our oceans – when they dive, snorkel or even go for a fun swim. We’re robbing our children from experiencing the most magical moment of being surprised by a pod of dolphins while in the water. Just following them around and playing. Not to mention the risk their absence poses on the delicate balance of marine life.
We must STOP these brutal killings. The statistics on the number of dolphins that are slaughtered and taken for captivity every year is gut wrenching – just in 2015 season almost 500 bottlenose dolphins alone were slaughtered – and this is a reduced number. We can put an end to causing the suffering of some of the most beautiful and gentle animals on earth. Let’s make this the final year of this barbaric practice! The main reason of the Taiji drive is the money they make from selling these dolphins alive to marine parks and aquariums around the globe. They could be sold for as much as $300,000US per dolphin! STOP supporting dolphin shows and Marine Parks. The truth is that the Marine Parks NEVER serve a good purpose. They only keep the dolphins, trade them when it’s the right breeding choice and take away all the innocence and freedom these animals have to live with their pods in the open ocean. 
Some Japanese say that the true reason is that the practice is part of the culture – however, a quick research into the topic reveals that this is a practice that only started about 40 years ago. Hardly a tradition in a culture that has traditions rooted in thousands of years of history. Some further argue that it started 40 years ago as a result of the internationally enforced whaling ban – which has traditional background to 400 years – loosely reasoning that this proves the necessity of the hunts. An obvious reason that negates this claim is that there have been many barbaric traditions in history that have been changed and abandoned as it is not serving our times and humanity – remolding their cultures into modern times – you know, modernization. Just in Japan alone there are many positive changes and adaptations – a history full of wars and invasions Japan no longer believes in war, leaders aren’t Samurais anymore, the adoption of an open culture and leading other advancements… in other parts of the world there are examples ranging from abandoning whaling practices all the way to stopping the practice of cannibalism for a more extreme case in point. Japan shows that they understand the future is better through harmony – they place great value in the harmonious existence between man and nature for the most part. They are leading the world in developing world class recycling and waste management practices to control pollution and they respect the natural state of environments.
Second – the Japanese themselves, as the majority, do NOT eat dolphin meat. However, what DOES happen is the Taiji dolphin meat get relabeled as “mahi mahi” or even “tuna” and sold in the market. So YOU might be eating dolphin when you think you’re eating another fish. This is just so they can turn out some profit. 
Third –  again the Japanese themselves are against this atrocity – the aquariums and marine parks within Japan are boycotting Taiji by refusing to buy dolphins from Taiji – because it’s such a cruel practice. They are also responding to the international pressure and accepting the need for modernization to protect the image of a culture as well as the future of marine life.
Fourth – the claim that the current fishermen wouldn’t have any other jobs to support their families if they stopped dolphin hunting is as archaic as the barbaric killings themselves. Not only has it been proven in many other locations that Marine tourism is a better way to support local economies – the Taiji fishermen themselves allow locals to pay and swim with the dolphins in the weeks leading to the cruel killings. Imagine the further confusion from the dolphin’s side? The cove where they peacefully interact with humans becomes their slaughtering grounds weeks later. Further proving the ignorance around the suffering of the dolphins. 
This is clearly nothing but a barbaric practice that can and must be stopped! 
You can make a difference! 
As awareness increases the reactions and actions from the necessary places take place. The Japanese Aquariums and Zoos were one of these. Just sharing on social media and raising awareness helps. 
Sign petitions or just share on Facebook and other social media to raise awareness of these atrocious killings! You can share the posts and updates from Seashepherd and Rick O’Berry who’s dedicated his life for the last 30 years to protecting these amazing marine mammals. The more people know about it and the more pressure we can put on the Japanese and Taiji officials the more likely they are to stop this practice. Japan is a peaceful country and they know to live in better harmony with the life and nature around them. What needs to change is the idea that these animals belong in captivity – that they are somehow great entertainment for humans as a means for education. No. Nature belongs in nature. Animals should be enjoyed in nature. Museums – we don’t have the idea of ripping out landmark buildings and bringing them to people who can’t afford to go and visit them in their cities… we enjoy them through pictures and photos. When we can go and see the cities we appreciate it more knowing how much it took us to get there. We appreciate their surroundings more than what we saw in the books and movies. We see their reality – their true surroundings, cultures, people’s interaction etc. Why are animals less precious than buildings
Lastly, if you believe in the power of prayer or meditation – whatever it is you choose – please pray that dolphins do NOT make their way to Taiji. Dream, pray and imagine that these drives are less and less beneficial for those humans who initiate and lead them. 

These dolphins come to us because they are curious – they leave without harming us – whether we’re in the water or not. What is stopping us from being as remorseful and gentle as them?

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