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By Vicki Kiely

Life As A Cove Monitor

Taiji, Japan: A place that keeps a part of my soul every time I visit, and place that never leaves me when I come back home. It is eternally at the back of my mind.

I have chosen some of the most powerful images of when I was there during my three stints last season. On one horrific day  we saw  juveniles jump the nets, and face plant on the beach, one who got stuck on the rocks metres from where we stood. We stood helpless, shocked, hearts torn from our chests, and breath held in fear. Luckily my first Cove Monitor Training was with the compassionate, informed, and my brother from another mother Terran Vincent Baylor….albeit the crash course that it was! LOL! But I hope I got it! At least for the most of the time. But nothing could prepare me for that day I’m afraid.

For the most part, we are utterly helpless; onlookers and reporters documenting the atrocities we see almost daily. The darkness of the hunt robs your faith and sucks the life from your soul. Yet, somehow you manage to wake up each morning at 4am and do it all over again. The adrenaline and the support from all over the world keeps you going. I can barely eat when I am there…..I can not rationalise…..I become over emotional, super sensitive, sometimes giddy and delirious, laughing for no reason, even after a drive….your mind is not your mind those days in the field. All you can do is stay as strong as you can, get the shot, tell the world, post the information to the 100’s of 1000s of people waiting with baited breath at home for YOU to tell them what is going on.

That burden alone (reporting from the ground) is gargantuan…..sometimes what I see and post is not what someone else sees. I am witnessing hunting, terror, death and torture, and people message me saying that another group said there are 9 boats in formation and I would have posted that there were 7….I mean I post what I SEE! I post only what I see, not what I am told by someone in the USA or any other country, sees on their computer, and watching other updates, tells me. You must know that I can only speak MY truth. Regardless of whether it is 7 boats, 9 or all 12……does that really matter? Bottom line is a pod of dolphins are going to die….that is the IMPORTANT TRAGIC PIECE OF INFORMATION! I know people are worked up, waiting, and so sad……and believe me, watching metres from where it is happening, hands trembling, tears desperately trying to be bitten back, it is no easier.

I want to thank you all who in the past got me through those stints, especially my one alone on FOOT! Not having a car and running like a lunatic with cameras and equipment up to 10km a day was no easy task. Marc Taiji in particular was my life line while I would be walking all alone for the 40 minute trek (in the pitch dark) from my hotel to the harbour….so creepy….but he texted me every morning to keep me company on that hike. Thank you dear Marc…even though you are an eejit!

I also want to thank all my fellow Cove Monitors and also the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians, the Independents, and most importantly the Japanese activists – Izumi Ishii, Satoshi Komiyama, Yoshi Ko, Takayo Yamaguchi etc, who all go out to Taiji with the same goal….to protect dolphins, to end captivity, and to end the needless slaughter. You are all incredible souls with hearts of gold…tactics may differ, but the goal is the same. I honour each and every one of you, and you have taught me and inspired me. And NONE of this would be happening for me, and I know most of you, were it not for my mentor, my friend, my confidante Richard O’Barry and all at Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project….you are my family and stuck with me for life!!!

Remember also that not ALL Japanese people are for this hunting, or even know about it. Japan is incredible. The people there are kind polite and lovely. I was embraced everywhere, both by locals and the police. Obviously the Fishermen’s Union and the Dolphin Hunters aren’t kind to me, and look at me with harsh stares…but that is acceptable….I am in their town attacking their profession….of course they are going to be hostile. I wish we could change that and maybe help them find a change of heart….unlikely, but a nice thought none the less. I urge you to be patient this year and encouraging. I urge you to keep spreading the word. Thank you in advance. Your support to all of us who go to Monitor The Cove is the only thing that keeps us going. Your love and kind messages (to keep us brave) are priceless, and we cherish them.

Thank you and lets protect dolphins together. ‪
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