Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Update from Taiji and a Talk to the Media in Tokyo

By Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

According to our volunteers in Taiji, on Sunday the dolphin drive boats went out and found ten bottlenose dolphins, which were herded into the Bay near Taiji. One major change from previous trips (an alternative which some of our people observed towards the end of last year’s season in March 2010): There is a floating dock with sea pens in the middle of the Bay, well away from the Cove depicted in the documentary. It appears that the fishermen, in order to elude hidden cameras, are now using this floating dock for dolphins.

On Monday morning, reportedly five dolphins were kept for captivity and the remaining five were released back into freedom, a partial victory for us as the “no kill” policy appears to remain in effect.

But as we saw last year, this “no kill” policy is unlikely to remain in place. We must continue our efforts to keep the pressure on the dolphin killers and the Japanese government to end the slaughters and all of the dolphin captures once and for all.

A Good Showing at the FCCJ:

I was made an honorary member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan when I was in Tokyo last year. So on Monday, I addressed a luncheon there of foreign and Japanese correspondents about the dolphin slaughter and our efforts last week, and gave them a peek at the new Animal Planet TV series, “Blood Dolphins”, produced and directed by my son, Lincoln O’Barry.

I was pleased by the reaction in the Japanese media. Stories about my talk were accurate and gave me a good forum for talking to the Japanese people about the slaughter. There were tough questions, but apparently the Japanese media liked my responses. The “confrontation” approach of “Us vs. Them” of previous media stories was gone.

Ric O’Barry addresses the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan on Sept. 6th.
Photo by Miyuki Takamatsu.

Here is a good example in English on the “Japan Today” website.

This is why I have avoided confronting the Japanese dolphin killers or breaking Japanese laws. It is easy to break such laws, but doing so damages your credibility beyond repair among mainstream Japanese. I have worked hard to get the Japanese media to understand that I am not condemning the Japanese people nor Japan’s culture. I am only condemning the slaughter of dolphins, and I believe I have positive alternatives, such as ecotourism, to offer the people of Taiji and other communities in Japan that still slaughter dolphins.

A number of our volunteers this past week in Tokyo, for example, went down to the coastal village of Futo and went dolphin-watching with Mr. Ishi, a former dolphin hunter who now runs an ecotourism business. Futo fishermen used to slaughter thousands of dolphins, but have not caught any since 2004. Mr. Ishi has shown the way for dolphin killers to become dolphin lovers, without anywhere near the labor required to herd and slaughter the mammals.

I hope the Japanese media is beginning to “get it” – Japanese local communities can benefit far more from eco-tourism, sustainable fishing practices, and being open to foreign visitors than they can from running secretive dolphin-killing ventures. And Japan can avoid another Minamata-style disaster with mercury poisoning if it stops the sale of contaminated dolphin meat.

Phone Calls Jam Japan Embassy Lines:

Last week, while I was leading our volunteers and talking to the Japanese media about the dolphin hunts and presenting 1.7 million signatures to the US Embassy in Tokyo, our Save Japan Dolphins Team launched an online campaign for our Facebook supporters, urging them to call the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC and other countries.

They flooded the US Embassy and also called Embassies and Consulates in New York, Seattle, Ottawa, London, Nashville and Denmark, and others I'm sure. Our team stressed that they be polite and respectful, and some reported that they had nice conversations - at least one person at a Japanese Embassy had no idea of the hunts and was appalled to hear about it!

This is the kind of combined outside pressure and inside pressure that will, together, end the dolphin hunts in Japan. No government can long withstand this level of opposition to their basic policies that hurt their own people. We can end this dolphin slaughter by pledging to remain active until it stops and never give up.

Ric’s autograph.
Photo by Miyuki Takamatsu.

My thanks and the thanks of our whole Save Japan Dolphins Team to all those who called the Embassies and Consulates. If you have not done so yet, I urge you to do so now and politely ask them to end the dolphin hunts in Japan.

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