Divine Wind Buys Time for Dolphins in Taiji

Saturday, 03 Sep, 2011

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Storm clouds over Taiji in 2010Storm clouds over TaijiThe annual horrific program of massacring defenseless dolphins officially began in Taiji, Japan on September 1, but thanks to the timely arrival of Typhoon Talas, the killing has been delayed for at least a week. The sea is not being very kind to Japan this year but then again, Japan has not been very kind to the sea for some time.

The fishermen of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture pride themselves in dragging the reputation of Japan through the mud by continuing what has now become the most barbarically cruel, and bloody vicious dolphin slaughter in the world.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been actively opposing the murder of dolphins in Taiji since 2003 when we first released telling images of the brutal killings to press and supporters around the world. That same year, two Sea Shepherd crewmembers, American Allison Lance and Alex Cornelissen of the Netherlands, cut the fishing nets and released 15 dolphins to freedom.

The fishermen responded to our actions by erecting tarpaulin barriers to block their bloody practices. Then filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and Ric O’Barry made a documentary called The Coveabout the challenge of filming the unspeakable evil behind the barricades. This film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary and turned the world’s attention on the horror in Taiji.

In 2010, Sea Shepherd initiated the Cove Guardian program that brought 65 volunteers to Taiji over a six month period to legally and non-violently harass, document, and irritate the dolphin killers. Their actions did effectively slow down the fishermen’s operations and resulted in half the dolphin kills between September 1, 2010 and March 1, 2011 compared to previous seasons, thus saving the lives of some 750-800 dolphins.

The Cove Guardians are returning this year but Sea Shepherd decided to not arrive during the first week of September so as to not interfere with Ric O’Barry and his more moderate opposition to the slaughter. Ric first came to Taiji with Sea Shepherd in 2003. He is a dedicated dolphin defender, star of The Cove, and continues to champion for the dolphins worldwide.

Ric is doing great work but his approach differs from Sea Shepherd’s, and we do not wish to compromise his tactics by confusing the Japanese authorities with our simultaneous presence. We wish Ric the best in his efforts and we are standing by to move into position once he departs.

The Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians will again resume activities at Taiji for another six months barring any heavy-handed moves by the Japanese government to prevent us from our legal and non-violent interventions.

The official opening day of the dolphin slaughter coincided with the arrival of Typhoon Talas with a maximum sustained wind speed of 30 meters per second (100 kilometers an hour) and a central pressure of 965. Heavy rains slammed the southern coast, and rough seas and floods threaten the dolphins already held in captive in the pens at Taiji.

Meteorologists are puzzled by Talas saying, "The analysis continues to reveal an unusual upper-level pattern with an upper low over the center and anticyclonic flow around the periphery."  And just below Talus, is the raging category 4 super typhoon named Nanmadol, with winds of 250 kilometers per hour.

The storms are a fitting herald to Sea Shepherd’s campaign against Japanese whaling this upcoming season. This year’s campaign is titled Operation Divine Wind (kamikaze: Japanese for ‘wind of the Gods’). It was the kamikaze that destroyed the invading Mongol fleets between 1274 and 1281.

Where once the typhoons protected Japan, the Japanese fishermen have fallen from grace with the sea and now the typhoons have returned to protect the dolphins. It is now the Cove Guardians that embody the spirit of the kamikaze.

The Yamato-damashii, or spirit of old Japan, has all but disappeared, and Shikishima is fading into the mists of time like dying cherry blossoms represented now by the vicious thugs who brutalize the dolphins in Taiji, the unthinking masses that consume the last of the bluefin tuna, and the heartless slayers of the great whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Asked about the soul of dolphins, I would say, “Their souls are like wild cherry blossoms bleeding red in the morning sun.”

There are some who attribute the seaborne disasters that have befallen Japan on karma and divine intervention. Sea Shepherd and I reject such fanciful and unrealistic reflections for such speculation has no scientific credibility, but I do ponder on the poetic sense of retribution in that the nation that is most responsible for the destruction of whales, dolphins, sea turtles, bluefin tuna and so many other species in our oceans, is the very nation being so severely battered by the fury from the sea.

I think of Yukio Mishima’s 1963 novel Gogo no Eiko, or The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea, and I can’t help but feel that that Japan has begun to fall from grace with the sea herself.

On the ship of state that is the nation of Japan, perhaps the dolphin killers of Taiji and the whalers of the Antarctic whaling fleet are simply modern day Jonahs jinxing the nation.

Such speculation is of course silly and a product of my poetic point of view on these things, but there is no doubt that the stature of Japan itself has been lowered in the esteem of hundreds of millions of citizens worldwide who find the massacres in the Southern Ocean and Taiji as a black mark of shame upon the entire land of the rising sun. 

When I think of Japan I want to think of haiku and Japanese literature and films, films like Seven Samurai and Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa or Seppuku (Harakiri) by Masaki Kobayashi. I think of legendary heroes like Miyamoto Musashi, Japanese art, Japanese sense of order and symmetry, and the linguistic beauty of the Japanese language. But all this beauty and poetry is tarnished by the hot blood that flows into the cold sea from gaping open wounds of slain dolphins and whales. All the delicacy of Japanese music is overridden by the pitiful and sorrowful screams of dying cetaceans.

And I ask myself how a nation of such achievements in art and philosophy, technology, and genius allow itself to be smeared by a small handful of bloody-handed men with harpoons and spears? I do not know the answer, but I do know that my Japanese history lessons have taught me one thing and that is to be true to one’s duty and to serve with absolute loyalty and honor.

And that is what we do with reference to the dolphins and whales we protect. We have pledged to defend and protect them and we must be true to that pledge no matter what opposition is thrown up to dissuade us.

Sea Shepherd is not the enemy of Japan, but we are the enemy of the ugly cancer that clings to the flag of Japan like a stubborn limpet, and that cancer is Taiji and the whaling fleet that plunders the waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

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