by Michael dEstries
Categories: Animals, Causes, Film/TV.

taiji, japan, dolphin hunt, the cove, documentary

When the documentary The Cove was released in late summer to a limited amount of theaters in the US, expectations of how the film might impact the start of the Japanese dolphin hunt were mixed. Would the message carried in the film be ignored? Would people plug into the passionate storytelling and activism? And most importantly, would the town of Taiji, Japan — home of the deadly “Cove” feel any pressure to change their ways?

Almost a month after the dolphin hunt in Taiji was supposed to commence, we’re happy to report that the dolphin pods swimming in the area are still unharmed. There was an incident a few weeks back in which many were rounded up — leading some to believe that the hunt was on — but the majority were freed; with a few being selected for Japanese aquariums. (Not the greatest happy ending, we admit.)

In his almost daily blog entries, Richard O’Barry — Campaign Director for the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition and star of The Cove — has been keeping almost constant watch on Taiji and recounting the joy of each day that passes without a hunt. Yesterday, he wrote, “I was very pleased with what I saw – which was nothing. Not only was the Cove empty of any dolphins, there were also no signs of any activity to set up the dolphin hunt – for example, nets used to close off the Cove once the dolphins are driven in were not set in place ready to be deployed. All the dolphin drive boats depicted in “The Cove” Movie were tied up at the docks. There was no activity at the Fishermen’s Union.”

While O’Barry admits he can’t stay in Taiji forever, he has been pleased with the worldwide pressure on the town — including a recent 60 Minutes Australia special and an upcoming 10-day stint by a German film crew. He also gave credit to celebrities like Ben Stiller and others for pressuring the Tokyo Film Festival into showing The Cove. It had previously been banned from the competition.

What happens next in Taiji is anyone’s guess. I still think a hunt is quite possible — but if it does commence, expect the storm of criticism to once more descend on the town. This time around, such scorn may also come from the Japanese public — a shift that might help end the hunt permanently. Until that day comes, expect O’Barry and others to keep a watch on Taiji. To help them in their mission — please consider a donation here.

Still haven’t seen The Cove movie? Jump here for showtimes near you.

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

View all posts by Michael dEstries →
  • Kirsten@Nexyoo

    This is good news. I really hope that the attention this year has a long-term impact…

  • don miguelo

    This is awesome progress!!! Thanks Hayden, Richard O’Barry, Ben Stiller and oall the rest of you ocean warriors!

    But let’s not forget, just as amazing, the pilot whales!–
    “Unfortunately, the 50 pilot whales did not receive a similar reprieve and were killed and sold for their meat.” -ecorazzi- (see the “incident a few weeks back” highlighted above)

    I hate ending these on a downer but it’s true…

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  • Dave Head

    Sorry -it’ started again-check out:

    The tarpaulin covers have been meticulously erected, but they can’t completely mask the brutality of the slaughter unfolding below. Even from the clifftop, it is possible to hear the hunters’ voices and the thrashing of tail fins as their prey make a final, fruitless bid for freedom.

    Occasionally a hunter emerges into the gaps between the covers, grimacing as he plunges his knife into the water. Minutes earlier the sea around him was emerald green. Now it is turning a deep crimson, the morning air tainted with the stench of freshly drawn mammal blood.

    Justin McCurry on the restart of the Japanese dolphin hunt
    The gruesome spectacle of dolphins being slaughtered for profit has returned to Taiji, just as international condemnation of the Japanese town’s annual cull reaches a crescendo. At least 100 bottlenose dolphins and 50 pilot whales have been taken in the first hunt of the season, which began on 1 September.

    Over the next six months the town’s fishermen will catch about 2,300 of Japan’s annual quota of 20,000 dolphins. The meat from a single animal fetches up to 50,000 yen (£330), but aquariums are prepared to pay up to £90,000 for certain types.

    • Michael d’Estries


      That article is actually in reference to the minke whales that were unfortunately killed. There were no dolphins killed in that hunt. Any that were captured were released (a few were kept for Japanese aquariums).

      Believe me, with so much media in Taiji, if things did start, the world would hear about it quickly.

  • Scott C. Waring

    God Bless those who get the video and photos for telling the world this story. Its dangerous work and the Japanese will arrest you for trespassing if you are caught.

    We need more believers of change so that we can save the dolphins, but pressure on Japan to stop is the #1 priority.

    good work and good article.

  • sabita patwardhan

    Consumers who care are the ones who can bring down animal cruelty significantly. The very, very important thing is that we who like to read, surf the net etc., should keep informing others about the reality of every industry. A lot of commercials use false pictures of happy animals to sell animal products.
    Example: milk and butter commercials use calves with happy farm melodies going on. The reality is that calves are constantly produced to make cows constantly give milk. The children are then slaughtered and the milk taken by us.

  • Gina

    This sounds promising – hopefully it stays this way. Ben Stiller is such a cool guy!

  • Stacey

    The Cove comes out on DVD on December 8th and special features include audio commentary with Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens, a mini doc about the hazards of mercury in seafood, behind-the-scenes footage of the gear used to capture the incredible footage and deleted and extended scenes.

    Keep an eye out for it wherever DVDs are sold!

  • Erica

    I’m so happy I’m dancing!!!!!!!!
    Even if the hunt does commence later, the uneventful start of the season is a big deal for dolphins!
    Just think that a hundred and fifty years ago, this was America. New England was the world’s center of whaling. And yet, as soon as petroleum was discovered, we easily ditched blubber. We didn’t kill these intelligent creatures because we liked doing it, but because we found a need to, a need later satisfied by a more efficient and less dangerous source.
    And yet the whaling culture is still preserve in places like Mystic and Nantucket- through informative museums, instead of senseless killing.
    C’mon, Japan! Less than 4% of your entire population eats cetaceans. We’re not asking for much!

  • Jessica Octavien

    The Cove was amazing.The passion of these activist along with their sheer effort to stop the killings of these Dolphins was pure genius. The cinematography was astonishing , every element of the film was well put together , right down to the music. It is very difficult to find a movie that is brutally honest, entertaining and informative all in one but The Cove is all of that!!! This is a must see !!!

  • Mika

    I saw The Cove a few days ago. I was interested to see how the lure dolphins into the cove and was wondering if putting underwater sonars at the bottom of the cove’s shore could serve as a “sound wall” that would force dolphins no to go into the cove if they are ever rallied up again by the Japanese. Is this possible?