Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Learning Experience

I’ll try to piece together the last three days in a meaningful way. Let me just say that my eyes are opening and I really need to look at my own life. I have come to a foreign country, without knowing the language, to show the world the horrors that are here. It is awful and I hope it stops before there are no dolphins left. But, I’ve learned it’s me that needs to change my little piece of the planet. Sure, I’ll continue to call embassies and draw attention to these issues but I need to focus of the some good things in the world and clean up my life before I get in anyone’s face.

Three days ago, after a short wait at the point, we saw a huge pod being driven in. So many, they made a wave as they tried to flee the sound of the banger boats. For a moment, we saw them make a break but the boats are just too fast. They belch black smoke and circle the dolphins back to the direction of the cove. There is a precision to what the fishermen do with these big boats. They’re like cattle dogs or cutting horses. The keep driving the herd, I mean pod, the direction they need it to go. We moved to watch them funnel the animals into the cove. The boats are close enough to hear the banging. It’s relentless and the dolphins can’t escape it. They are driven into the cove. The dolphins swim in the netted off cove while the fishermen prepare the killing cove. They work fast. Then they start to drive the dolphins in by motoring backwards at them. The fishermen are yelling, the motors are racing, the dolphins are breathing hard and are moving in the only direction they can. Once in the killing cove, the sound of the motors is replaced by the sounds of bodies hitting the sides of boats. Then, after what seemed like hours, the banging stops and the boats move slowly back into the cove for the next group. And the process starts again. The breathing and tail slaps increase as the boats move past.

One baby circled the cove, away from what remained of the pod, looking for its mother.

The day was long, and it left a hollow feeling. That evening, Martyn said he was headed back to be with the dolphins that were in the cove. He let me tag along. I expected to go to a dark cove and sit quietly and listen to whales breathe. What we got was very different. There were people everywhere and really bad flash lights trying the light up the area. Martyn and I moved past the chatter toward the beach. A local police moved toward Martyn and asked, “Did you eat dinner?” Martyn explained the events of the day had made it impossible for him to eat. The cop chuckled. He came toward me. I don’t know if it was what we witnessed today or if it was his chuckle to Martyn, but I snapped a little when he asked me if I had dinner. I asked, “Are you the fucking dinner police? What difference does it make if I had dinner? Did you have dinner? Did you eat dolphin?” he said, no no. I have not had dinner. Oh the poor guy was hungry.

There was no quiet at the cove. You could barely hear the survivors in the water just yards from us. Cars were racing on the street, people were chattering. The shit was stirred up. It became clear to me how important this drive fishery is and how these people will protect it. It’s their livelihood.

Some fishermen above us shined flashlights on us. Martyn asked three times to please stop shining the flashlight in his face. On the third request, I marched up the hill with my surefire pointed right in their eyes and I didn’t stop until I was inches from one guys face. The man couldn’t get his video camera out fast enough. The dinner cop was back and pushed me away saying, no trouble, no trouble. I said, tell him to put the light down. OKOK NOTROUBLE NOTROUBLE. Right! Tell him to put the fucking light down and we will back away. OKOK NOTROUBLE NOTROUBLE. It was clear the first move needed to be ours. We moved back to the beach. The flashlight was still on us. After about 2 minutes the cop was chewing out the guy with the light. I realized that the cop couldn’t say anything while we were there. It would be disrespectful. I have so much to learn.

The next day, we arrived at the cove before dawn. Flood lights had been setup on the beach since Martyn and I left the night before. This made me smile. I could hear the pod. Soon the killers arrived and prepped the killing cove. It was different today the first boats left with bodies in slings to be sold into slavery. Then the gutting barge passed on the horizon.

We moved up the hill to get a view of the gutting barge, it was in clear view. Unfortunately, they saw me and moved the barge closer to shore. We still got to see blood in the water. People want to know how many or what kind are killed each day. What difference does it make? Yesterday, I saw a baby swimming without its mother. For me, that one death, a mother killed infornt of her baby, was too many. The banger boats approached to drive some dolphins out of the cove. This really made no sense to me and then I remembered the film crew. I bet they were on the boats to show how compassionate the fishermen are. Or, maybe mourning dolphins stay close and attract other dolphins? Who knows what goes on in the head of these butchers? I watched the pod break into two and then I saw the baby, swimming alone moving further away from the others. The bangers kept driving them and the baby too. From my vantage point, it looked like someone sweeping off their front porch.

Yesterday, the boats were out. They had a small pod but lost it. As we left our post, we saw a crew working on the gutting barge we swooped down on them with cameras and righteousness. They quickly moved the barge and the cars sped away. Some of us blocked a couple cars. They would not back up. I assume, not backing up is a point of honor. If one fisherman won’t back his car out of honor, how can we expect the drive fishery to end when there is no way for them to save face? This is an industry that supports this village and families and children. We need a plan for them. We need to look a couple of moves ahead. Yes, it needs to end, but let’s do this with compassion for all beings including the ones feeding their families by killing dolphins. Many won’t agree with that statement, many here don’t. I’m fine with that. I need to find my own way.

Today was my last day at the cove. It was a good day in that no dolphins were killed. It was bad day in that at least one dolphin was taking into slavery. I wonder if the boats went out to distract us, keep us watching the horizon while they loaded up a body. These are smart people. I’m using a computer and camera that are made in Japan. I believe we need to find a way through respect. That will be the direction I’ll go. I am glad that Sea Shepherd is here to raise awareness. I’m glad I came to see what’s going on.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Koyasan to hang out with monks for the day and hopefully stay in a ryokan. The next day, I fly home. Hopefully, I’m a little wiser from this trip. It’s been a water boarding of my reality. Thanks to everyone that has shown their support for me on the journey and to everyone that has been making calls and sending emails and letters. Keep up the fight! Make the calls and send the emails. Go into the consulates and see if you can strike up a conversation with someone in person. Find common ground and build from there. Calling them up saying, I wish you would all die, is not going to get you very far and in the end does the dolphins no good at all.

Also, take care of yourself. For your sanity, stop watching the updates. They don’t matter. The hunt is going to happen. If no dolphins are killed today, that’s great but in the big picture, it doesn’t matter. Ten years from now when your child asks, where did all the dolphins go? Are you going to say, they were all killed, but on December 7th, 2010 no dolphins were killed in Taiji, Japan?

For the souls of the oceans


  1. Mike,

    Thank you for your message. It is extraordinary how much sanity you bring to a situation that is totally insane. Good luck with your journey. I will use your wise counsel.

    Sandy McElhaney

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