The annual dolphin hunt provides big business along Japan’s coastal areas. But the hunt has been a contentious issue amongst pro and anti whaling organizations in the country for years.
News and lifestyle blog TakePart.com recently profiled a woman named Tia Butt. The website describes how Butt would wake up at sunrise everyday in the small coastal town of Taiji to observe its annual dolphin hunt. Butt is a keen volunteer under the Dolphin Project campaign, acting as a “cove monitor”. These monitors keep tabs on the Japanese dolphin hunt.
“I’ve seen days where the dolphins get away, but then you have days where you see [the fishermen] get them and they push them into the cove and kill some of them,” Butt said to TakePart. “As you know, they’re very intelligent animals. They know what’s going on.”
Starting in September, the area’s fishermen trap and kill hundreds of dolphins. These animals are either sent into captivity at marine parks or packaged into meat for consumption.
The Dolphin Project campaign is one of many groups fighting this cause. According to Takepart, activists landed in Taiji this week. Their goal is to peacefully push for change from Japanese fishermen and generate enough media coverage to get people’s attention.
After learning about Japan’s dolphin slaughter early last year via YouTube clips and the documentary The Cove, Butt reportedly decided to take action. A natural runner, Takepart says she fundraised almost $3,000 from races in support of the Dolphin Project. Butt also traveled to Taiji in September for a few days to participate in the campaign. She then came back a few weeks later on her own to become a cove monitor.
“Never in a million years did I think I could go to Taiji and observe the killings, but once I was there, I knew I had to come back,” Butt said.
As a cove monitor, she is one of many committed volunteers who sign up to travel to Japan, on their own dime, to fight against the slaughter.
Mark Palmer is associate director of the Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project. He told TakePart: “We’re looking for people who can spend time in Taiji; usually we recommend up to two weeks.”
TakePart explains that these volunteers spend time with veteran cove monitors, who prepare them for the hunts and train them in their responsibilities. The cove monitors conduct outreach with Taiji locals, write letters to Japanese officials, and continuously monitor the numbers of dolphins killed or captured in the hunt.
Photo by Ste Elmore