Sunday, September 6, 2009

For the Spirits of the Dolphins

By Richard O’Barry, Director
Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

We spent the morning with my friend Mr. Ishii, going out on his boat off Futo to see the beautiful coastline. It is still too early for any dolphins to be in these waters, so we saw none, but I always enjoy going out on the water, especially in such beautiful weather. And Mr. Ishii takes great pride in his boat and keeps it immaculate.

The wind kicked up today. Our film crew had been planning to head offshore to some small islands off Japan where a group of Japanese women run a swim-with-wild-dolphins program, very successfully combining the public’s fascination with dolphins while still respecting the dolphins’ freedom and spirit. But another typhoon is moving towards the coast, and we simply don’t have the time to get caught offshore on the islands and lose time for filming when the water is churned up. Sadly, we will have to come back another time to tell that story.

Speaking of the dolphin spirits, the Japanese do worship their ancestors, and as a part of that have a small wooden post in honor of the dead dolphins they have killed. The fishermen will pray there, apologizing to the dolphin spirits and thanking them. It is a Buddhist memorial to those dolphins that have died. I am hopeful that the days of killing dolphins are at end here, and that thanking the wild dolphins for their presence can continue without the killing. Mr. Ishii is showing the way. He gave me some horrendous photographs he took back in the 1960’s of the Futo dolphin hunts. Many of them are simply too graphic for us to use. I can well understand why he quit the brutal hunt.

Tomorrow, we head back to Tokyo, stopping along the way for more shooting for Lincoln’s TV program.

Media interest in our trip has trailed off now, but I am still getting calls from people wanting interviews. Our journalists from the UK Telegraph and Le Monde of France left us to work on their stories.

I did a follow up interview with National Public Radio about my trip to Taiji, which you can find here:

We have no word from Taiji about what is happening there, although our friend from Le Monde is heading down there tomorrow. We hope he will find the Cove still empty of any dolphins.

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I’m still convinced that the hunt in Taiji for dolphins is on its last legs. First, The Cove movie caused a sensation in the US and Australia, and will shortly do so in Europe. Then the Broome Shire Council “divorced” Taiji, which we understand is the first time a sister-city relationship has been suspended. We plan to return and screen The Cove in Japan shortly, and that will likely be the death knell of dolphin hunting. Once the Japanese people learn the truth about mercury poisoning and the government cover-up for the dolphin hunters, the people will never allow their government to continue.

I believe that, and you are a big help in making that belief come true!

This is an historic moment for the dolphins and whales of Japan. I sincerely thank you and ask you to join us in spirit for this return to Taiji and Futo.

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition consists of Earth Island Institute, Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, OceanCare, In Defense of Animals, Campaign Whale, and the Animal Welfare Institute.

Ric O’Barry and Mr. Ishii are out on the ocean off Futo, Japan, where Ishii-san conducts whale- and dolphin-watching cruises from the same boat he used to hunt dolphins from.
Photograph by Mark J. Palmer

The dolphin kill in Futo, photographed by Mr. Ishii in the 1960’s.
Photograph by Mr. Izumi Ishii

The Buddhist memorial to the spirits of the dead dolphins at Futo.
Photograph by Mark J. Palmer

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