Dolphin Hunting, part two – separating fact from fiction

Dolphin Hunting: Fact versus Fiction

A veil of myths covers the murky industry of dolphin hunting, but thinly. The documentary has debunked them.

Myth 1: Drive Hunts are a tradition

Japanese drive hunters describe dolphin killing as a time-honored tradition to stem hostile reactions. In truth, the practice started as recently as 1969, when fishermen told the public that they were catching the creatures to put in a museum.

Drive hunting is a multi-million dollar industry. Anyone can see that the process is about cash, not culture.

Myth 2: Stopping dolphin hunts will ruin the economy

Fishermen say that drive hunts are an important financial source for them. Hunting proponents stress that it would hurt the economy. In reality, only a few fishermen profit from it.

Myth 3: Hunting is humane

Drive hunters have townsfolk believe that the killing of dolphins is humane and quick. Nothing could be further from the truth. They smash the dolphins’ spinal cords to make them immobile during the process.

Myth 4: People rely on dolphins for food

There is no doubt that dolphin meat is popular. That said, ask a Japanese person on the street if he eats dolphin meat regularly, and he is likely to stare blankly at you. There are many packets of unsold dolphin meat in Taiji warehouses.

Myth 5: It is essential for conservation

Hunters tell the public that that it is crucial to capture dolphins for their conservation in dolphinariums. The truth is that being in a dolphinarium gives a dolphin stress rather than peace.

The Documentary’s Message

As The Cove emphasizes, there is no justifiable reason for drive hunting. No matter how advocates explain it, it will still appear as a ruthless exploitation of nature.

The amount of unsold dolphin meat shows that it is an impractical, unnecessary and cruel process. The high mercury levels in the meat spoil its taste. Mercury makes the meat unpopular among some consumers. There is no need to kill dolphins if there is little money to be made from selling their meat.

If livelihood is a concern, there are other ways to make one. Perhaps the fishermen who engage in drive hunting need to be taught alternative ways of making a living. Government institutions can introduce programs to develop their skills.

Luring dolphins into a cove are beneficial for dolphins if it is done to protect them for a time. They must always be released into the wild later.

The Cove has made viewers aware of the appalling fate of the quirky bottlenose dolphins at Taiji. It calls people to preserve these friendly creatures before they disappear forever. Dolphin hunts, while still prevalent, are no longer a mystery.

Thanks to Roseville Tow Truck Company for sponsoring this site, helping us to get to the bottom of this serious issue and helping enable us to tell the story.

Dolphin hunting part one – controversey

The dolphin, a favored sea creature, puts up a bold, happy front for audiences who love to see it do heart-stopping flips and turns in the water. It has a perpetual smile etched on its face, and many regard it as a beacon of positivity.

This creature’s smile is deceptive. It masks the extensive, brutal torture it may have gone through.

The Cove, a controversial 2009 film that secured an Oscar for Best Documentary that year, brought the issue of dolphin killings in Taiji, Japan, to light. While it may not have stopped them, it has made it a task for drive hunters to eke out a living. Many would argue that this is rightly so.

Dolphin Hunting in Japan

Before one can understand why The Cove provoked such powerful reactions, it is necessary to have a grasp of drive fishing in Japan. It involves shepherding dolphins and whales into a cove and killing them.

It is hard to throw a spanner in the cogs of Japan’s lucrative drive hunting industry. Whalers make over $32000 for every dolphin they capture. Dolphin meat, despite its high mercury levels, is a delicacy.

Japanese drive hunts result in over 20000 dolphin deaths every year. They represent the biggest slaughter of dolphins in the world. These creatures take more than 30 minutes to perish. Fearing repercussions, drive hunters use curtains to shroud the killing process from the public.

The killings aside, dolphin captivity is an issue that arouses the ire of naturalists. Whalers select the active female dolphins for sale to dolphinariums, but many die of shock before or during transport.

Dolphins can live up to their nineties in the wild. Those in captivity live no more than 20 years.

A Summary of The Cove

The Cove, helmed by Greek director Louie Psihoyos, is a documentary that follows activist and trainer Ric O Barry’s mission to document dolphin hunting operations in Taiji, Wakayama. O’Barry is the man who helped to capture and train the dolphins who played Flipper in the TV series with the same name. Since a captive dolphin committed suicide in his arms by voluntarily closing her blowhole, he has become an advocate on behalf of dolphins worldwide. Authorities arrested him on the coast of Bimini for trying to free a captive dolphin.

He and Psihoyos traveled to Taiji, a town apparently devoted to whales and dolphins. In a nearby isolated cove at the district’s outskirts, activity takes place that townspeople attempt to disguise.

This cove is where a group of Taiji fishermen engages in dolphin drive hunting. They sell female bottlenose dolphins to marine parks and kill a large number of the rest. They tout the meat to supermarkets. The documentary highlights that the number of dolphins killed in Taiji is more than the number of whales killed in the Atlantic.

According to the film, local Japanese officials hide the hunting, so the Japanese public is not aware that it is taking place. Local police responded to the filming with open hostility and anger. Psihoyos had to record much of the film secretly in 2007, using underwater microphones.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, despite attempts to sabotage it. It secured the U.S. Audience Award at the 25th annual Sundance Film Festival in January 2009.

The Cove: The Controversy

The Cove shed needed light on the issue of dolphin killing. It resulted in a tussle between proponents of dolphin hunts and conservationists fighting to stop the slaughter. Proponents of the killings wanted to preserve their livelihood while dolphin and environmental activists feared for the welfare of the creature.

Fishermen and other right-wing supporters of the hunts protested in the streets of Taiji after the show won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2009. They hassled the staff at theaters in Tokyo and Osaka in attempts to stop the screening of the film.

Their efforts to prevent the awareness of the massacres were futile. Ric ‘O Barry spoke at several universities about the movie in 2010. He debunked myths about dolphin killing. The Directors Guild of Japan urged theaters to show the film, stating that not doing so would inhibit freedom of speech and democracy. Six theaters in Tokyo, Sendai, Kyoto, Osaka and Yokohama screened it.

A Taiji Activist group, called People Concerned for the Ocean, raised awareness of the issue by distributing DVDs of the documentary to the 3500 residents of Taiji. Upon its release, the Taiji town mayor and the Chief of the Fishery Union maintained that the hunts were legal.

Others who appeared in the film, including Professor Tetsuya Endo of the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido, felt that the documentary’s producers had lied to them. They pressed charges against these publishers.

The film has also led to a criticism of Dolphinariums, said to be one of the primary motives behind drive hunts. The spokespersons of such facilities, such as Seaworld’s Fred Jacobs, have stated that they are against drive hunts and do not purchase any dolphins caught during these activities.

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Fascinating Facts about Dolphins

Interesting or Surprising Facts about Dolphins

Do you know that dolphins are some of the most interesting creatures? Dolphins are not only extraordinary but also display culture, something which is typical of only humans. In fact, this is the reason why they are believed to be unique humans. Here are some revelations and interesting or surprising facts about dolphins.

1. Dolphins are the gangsters of the sea- Dolphins are known to be the gangsters of the sea since they have been seen patrolling the expanses of the sea in hierarchical pods. Each army of dolphins has a small subgroup which is given some tasks to do such as recruiting new members and protecting the female species. Besides, they also act as liaisons that go out and communicate with rival pods.

2. Genetically they resemble humans- As compared to other animals, dolphins are as smart as apes and can do many things that apes can be able to do. For instance, they can do things such as cultural transmission, mimicry, and mirror self-recognition. It’s believed that dolphins’ minds evolved to enable complex cognition just like human beings. Also, they have a high metabolic rate that allows their body to power their energy-demanding brains.

3. Dolphins are born with a mustache- Although they may appear smooth, dolphins do have hair at one point of their lives. When they are still young, they often have little remnants of hair right along the top where people’s upper lip would be. However, because of swimming this hair falls out very quickly.

4. They have funny penises that resemble the hand- The male dolphins have one of the strangest sex organs on the planet. Just like humans use their hands to feel their way around, dolphins have retractable penises that are used to navigate the sea. More so, its propensity often depends on his penis that acts as a do it all multi-tool.

5. They can sniff out bombs- Normally, they are used by the navy to clear underwater mines. Just like the way they train dogs, the military train dolphins by teaching them how to spot and to detect explosives and then mark them for the navy to disarm. The only disadvantage is that it’s hard to differentiate between a military dolphin and a wild one. This is why the enemy could indiscriminately attack all dolphins they see.

6. Dolphins can be color blind- When it comes to colors, what dolphins see is not known to researchers. Due to the absence of certain cones in the eyes they cannot see colors in a green spectrum. Although some studies have proven that they may have color vision it’s not yet known whether what they are responding to is color or brightness.

7. Dolphins have a strange sense of hearing- Even though they don’t have prominent external hear openings, their ears are small slits found behind the eyes. Sounds are, therefore, conducted tothe inner ear by flat lobes found in the lower jaw within the skull.

8. Their forelimbs are called pectoral flippers- As a matter of fact, the forelimps of a dolphin resemble those of other mammals. However, the bones in the forelimbs are short and rigid. This allows them to modulate their speed in water.

Well, those are some interesting or surprising facts about dolphins. Thanks to Garo Kassabian fantastic support.

Behind the Scenes — Making of The Cove

The Cove is a documentary film about the cruel dolphin hunt in Taiji, Wakayama, Japan. It advocates to stop mass dolphin hunting and educates the public about the increasing hazards of mercury poisoning resulting from the consumption of dolphin meat. It was acclaimed in many countries and won many prestigious awards including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. However, it has also drawn some controversy in Japan due to its dark portrayal of the Japanese fishermen and government officials.

The documentary was directed by Louie Psihoyos, a well-known National geographic photographer. He secretly filmed many scenes using underwater cameras and microphones, camouflaged as rocks. The story follows the quest of Ric O’Barry, a renowned ocean conservationist, to document the ruthless dolphin hunting practices near the Japanese town of Taiji. O’Barry was originally a dolphin trainer who trained the wild dolphins that played the role of “Flipper” in the popular television series. He was deeply moved when one of the sea creatures voluntarily closed its blowhole and died due to suffocation. The incident helped him understand the plight of captured dolphins and inspired him to become a dolphin activist.

The filming of The Cove was never easy. As the dolphin drive hunt takes place in an isolated cove surrounded by “Keep Out” signs and wire fences, it was impossible to capture the event with the consent of the townspeople and Japanese officials. Many attempts to film or view the mass dolphin hunting in the cove were blocked by the local police who treat visitors, especially foreigners, with intimidation, anger and derision. In fact, the film’s crew were shadowed and questioned soon after they arrived in Taiji. However, O’Barry and Psihoyos used advanced cameras and special tactics to shoot the dolphin killings. The hidden cameras were camouflaged so well the filming crew had a difficult time recovering them.

The film sheds light on the fact that about 23,000 porpoises and dolphins are being hunted in Japan, every year. The migrating dolphins are driven into acove where they are captured using nets and killed with knives and spears. The documentary also blamed Japan for allegedly buying the votes of poor countries including Ecuador, Cambodia, Guinea-Bissau, Laos, and Kiribati, in “The International Whaling Commission”. It even has many iconic scenes showing the government’s support to the local whale hunt. In one such scene, O’Barry shows the footage of the dolphin hunt to a Japanese official. The official, clearly unmoved, asks O’Barry how he obtained the footage.

Since its release in 2009, The Cove has inspired thousands of activists to visit Taiji and protest against the dolphin hunts. However, the film immediately came under fire upon its release in Japan. The country’s media and government criticized that the filmmakers exaggerated the hunting procedures which have been an integral part of the nation’s culture for hundreds of years. In 2015, a documentary named “Beyond the Cove”, was released by Keiko Yagi. It tells the story of the dolphin hunt from the fishermen’s side, was released.

Overall, The Cove received international acclaim and won over 25 international film awards. Eminent film critics such as Jeannette Catsoulis and Robert Ebert praised it for its authenticity and the audacity of the filmmakers.


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Review of the film, The Cove

First, a review of this documentary film, for any who are unfamiliar with it.

The Best Documentary OSCAR winner of 2009, The Cove is a gruesome and heart-breaking yet powerful documentary about the slaughter of dolphins. Widely popular dolphin trainer Richard O’Barry, director Louie Psihoyos and a team of adventure-seekers infiltrated the hidden cove near Taiji, a coastal village in Japan to capture some of the most heart-wrenching gruesome footage of dolphins being trapped and killed for meat. The horrid mass slaughter might be resentful to many, but the raw footages completely blend in with the informative and inspirational narration of the documentary as a plea to stop the barbaric deed. The documentary also leads on to reveal some horrifying facts about the extremely wealthy health organizations and how polluted their functioning is. The film also deals with the life and experience of the legendary trainer Ric O’Barry and sheds light on his unending efforts to help dolphins and free them into wilderness.

It is quite appreciable how the compact documentary of 90 minutes wraps all of these aspects and more and yet maintains a consistent balance throughout. A suspenseful plot, unending amusing facts and opinions, classy edits, some snappy humor, zippy music and artful covert camerawork only make the efforts much better. Although radical in consideration for a documentary, The Cove does not fail to highlight on the unnecessary killings of dolphins at large in Japan and the sickening truth behind how their meat is sold off wrongly labeled as the otherwise banned whale meat. The fact that dolphin, a mammal as opposed to a fish, has high mercury content in its flesh which is harmful for consumption and that this wrongly labeled meat is commonly provided to kids at school canteens makes the whole scenario even more gut-wrenching.

The adept teams of high-divers were paired with special cameras designed by Industrial Light and Magic which were camouflaged inside artificial rocks that meshed with the surroundings. The sheer risk factor involved in executing such a covert filming operation right under the vigilance of ample security and fishermen ready to harass tress-passers shows the perseverance and sheer potency of the whole team involved. The soothing narration from the director sharing facts, opinions and experience time to time adds up to the whole experience. The film also centrally revolves around the life and experiences of Ric O’Barry who shot to fame with the famous TV show ‘Flippers’ for which he trained all the dolphins involved in the show. O’Brien also shares how harsh it is for these witty mammals to be kept captive for entertainment purposes too. He recollects how sensitive these creatures are to sound and how one of the dolphins from ‘Flippers’ fell into depression and breathed its last in his arms.

From gut-wrenching footages of Japan’s well-kept secret mass slaughter of dolphins to Ric O’Barry and his 35 years of relentless atoning to help free and protect dolphins globally, Psihoyos has done a brilliant job in making a compact, beautiful, heart-breaking but inspiring documentaries. The Cove is undoubtedly an impressive portrait of an eco-documentary which invokes a global cause against man’s relentless endeavors to endanger nature.

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