The Cove Effect: 70 Dolphins Are Saved From Japan's Slaughter

By Brett Israel | September 15, 2009 4:52 pm

dolphin_webThe hunting and killing of bottlenose dolphins in Japanese fishing towns is no longer a quiet secret. The outcry has been growing against the hunt in Taiji, western Japan, since an award-winning American documentary The Cove this year showed dolphins being herded into an inlet and killed by fishermen with spears [AP]. Regardless, hunting season has begun anew, but in a small victory, representatives from the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition said they filmed Japanese fisherman releasing 70 bottlenose dolphins on Sunday.

The released dolphins were part of a catch that netted around 100 animals earlier in the month. The conservationists rejoiced over the release, but considering that the annual hunt in Taiji kills around 2,000, and up to 20,000 dolphins are killed across Japan each year, the group still has some persuading to do.

Dolphin hunting in Japan is a traditional business that many in Taiji rely on to make a living, but the gruesome nature of the killings has turned outsiders against the hunts. Scenes in The Cove graphically depict dolphins being trapped and killed with spears while the waters turn red with blood. This killing may be legal—dolphins and other small marine mammals are not protected by the ban on commercial whaling—but … the methods used are so nonchalantly brutal and gut-churningly primitive that Taiji officials are understandably publicity-shy [The New York Times]. The filmmakers were followed and harassed throughout their shooting, so they had to rely on more covert operations like deploying divers with underwater cameras, flying areal drones, and using thermal imaging and other spy gear to record the hunts. 

The hunting season began on September 1, although most of the activity is kept hidden from public eyes. In a typical hunt the fishermen pursue pods of dolphins across open seas, banging metal poles together beneath the water to confuse their hypersensitive sonar. The exhausted animals are driven into a large cove sealed off by nets to stop them escaping and dragged backwards into secluded inlets the following morning to be butchered with knives and spears [The Guardian]. Meat from the slaughtered dolphins is then sold to markets. The best dolphins in the catch are kept alive and sold to dolphin parks, where a single dolphin can command up to $150,000. 

Despite the recent release of 70 dolphins, and the pressure to cease the hunts altogether, many residents are unmoved and local officials are wishy-washy over whether they will release more dolphins. Officials here say dolphin hunts have long been a part of Taiji’s fishing culture. Although many have seen segments of The Cove on the Internet, most would not discuss the issue [Los Angeles Times]. Experts say that even if the town said they would release more of their catch, it will be almost impossible to monitor and verify.

Related Content:
80beats: Commando Filmmakers Expose Secret Dolphin Slaughter in Japan
80beats: The Trained Dolphin’s Next Trick: Arresting Aquatic Terrorists
80beats: Sponge-Wielding Dolphins Teach Their Daughters How to Use Tools
80beats: Controversial Deal Could Allow Japan to Hunt More Whales

Image:flickr/aresauburn

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
MORE ABOUT: dolphins
  • Christina Viering

    I love dolphins.

  • Fischer

    I saw images on TV. It is abhorring, horrible, criminal, appalling. I think it is as horrible as what happened to them in Hiroshima. Japanese shouldn’t forget the way they felt in those times, when they were in the place of the dolphins.
    It is a shame that the world keeps silent.

  • Luke M.

    The Cove is going to play at the Tokyo International Film Festival! Let’s hope this leads to more coverage in the Japanese media.

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1923252,00.html

  • Karla Meinberg

    Keep up the hard work. More people out here care than can be said.

    Karla Meinberg

  • Grace H

    I totally agree with Fischer. How about letting those fishermen earn their money from eco-tourism related to dolphins? My heart is too aching imagining suffered dolphins. sigh and tears…. what should I do?

  • Smith

    There is a rather undue bias toward the comments this film makes and the media attention that it is garnering. Is it about the manner in which the dolphins are killed that is considered the issue, because the fishermen are not killing them in a humane manner? How many of us know the actual manner in which all the cows, hogs, fowl, and the like are likewise “slaughtered” to provide us with meat? Think of crabs, lobsters, fish, and the like that we consume here in the West. Is the outcry from the association of dolphins to human? Do you think they are eating Flipper? Dolphins eat meat themselves. This is where they are in the food chain. Should they attempt to breed them in captivity and kill them in a more humane manner? They need to do better testing of meat, to ensure they are not poisoning the kids. That is something actually newsworthy from this film.

  • http://discover hallie zenith

    the more word gets out the better

  • wayne

    can explain what means by the cove effect?? That can save the dolphin??

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »