As the 1st of September approaches again, my thoughts, like so many peoples turn once more to Taiji. As a Cove Guardian there in 2014, my lasting memory of the place is a sound. I don’t know exactly how to describe this sound, a slap, a bang, a splash? Nothing adequately describes it. But I do know what caused the sound. It was the body of a dolphin hitting the water as it crashed down following a jump out of the water. Not a graceful, happy dive that ended in a nose first, splash free entry, following an exuberant leap in the air but the desperate, repetitive crash of a body, jumping out of the sea, endlessly seeking freedom. In Taiji this is a sound you hear constantly when near the sea pens.
Everyone who follows the hunting season on social media is well aware of the daily activity of the boats leaving port and then the interminable wait for them to return, hopefully empty handed. The activity of the Guardians and Monitors doesn’t stop at that point. Once the boats return the job isn’t finished, then it’s time to check on the captives, at Dolphin Base, the harbour pens and the Whale Museum. For me, this is when the real pain kicked in.
The sight of these dolphins, so callously ripped from their homes and their families is heart-breaking. They wait in the sea, in their tiny harbour pens, for their turn to be “trained”. The reality of which can mean being almost starved into submission. They are subjected to the extremes of the weather with no shelter, whether its burning sun or ferocious waves. All around them are sights, sounds and smells of home but they can’t get there because of a thin net holding them captive. It must be sheer torture. And so they jump………….again and again and again and again. They can see the open ocean but they just keep crashing down in the tiny pen that forms their prison.
I won’t ever forget the sight of a pod of dolphins disappearing into The Cove, knowing that we are witnessing the last minutes of their lives but for them at least the suffering is about to end. My biggest sorrow is knowing that for the captives, their suffering continues day after day and worse still they are fully aware of it. They know where they used to be and where they yearn to be again……..free in their true home, the Ocean.