Every year Japan's Fisheries Agency issues the Hunters of Taiji a permit to kill about 2,000 dolphins. Dolphins migrate every year off the coast of Taiji. From September 1st through March the hunters set out to kill these dolphins and also catch dolphins to be sold in the live dolphin trade. This activity is known as "Dolphin Drives".
As the sun raises in Taiji, the hunters board boats called Banger Boats and set off to find their catch. Banger Boats have a metal pole that extends from the boats deck into the water. The hunters bang on this pole to drive the dolphins. Once a pod is found the group of banger boats work together in formation to drive the dolphins back into the Cove of Taiji. By Banging on the poles the hunters are able to scare the dolphins and get them to go the direction they want them to. Though disoriented, the dolphins fight for hours to get away. There are times when their persistence and hard work pay off, and the dolphins escape. But this is not always the case.
Once the hunters have pushed the dolphins into the cove they drop nets to trap them in. At this point the dolphins are not only terrified but exhausted. They are confined into a small swallow area, in which many get cut, scratched, or bruised up, just from trying to swim around.
|The Cove of Taiji runs red, due to dolphin blood|
Over the years there has been a few different recorded methods of how the hunters kill the dolphins. Footage of animals being gutted alive, speared to death, and having a metal rod drove into there backs severing the spinal cord. The Japanese Government claims that they are dedicated to ensure these animals are slaughtered in the most humane way they can, with as little pain, stress, and suffering as possible. They see these animals as blessings, so the utmost respect is given to them. Once the animals are dead, their bodies are taken to the gutting barge and then to the butcher house, which is located in the harbor, to be packaged up for consumption.
|Dolphin picked for captivity is held in a small sea pen|
All though not widely popular, dolphin meat is consumed around Japan. But, this is not the reason behind these dolphin drives. The thing that keeps these drives going is the Live Dolphin Trade. A single live dolphin can fetch as much as $150, 000 USD. It is much more valuable then a dead dolphin, which is only be worth about $600. Taiji supplies dolphins for Marine Parks all over the world. These dolphins live a hellish life, ripped out of the oceans, forced to do silly tricks for dead fish.
|Misty The Dolphin, found in December 2010 at Dolphin Base|
Last year in Taiji, at Dolphin Base resort, activist were shocked to find a dolphin being held in an above ground swimming pool, all alone. Action for this dolphin was immediately taken. One activist suggested the dolphin be named Misty, others started a page for him, Save Misty the Dolphin, on Facebook. Within 5 days, with thousands upon thousands of phone calls, e-mails, and Faxes, "Misty" was moved to a bigger pool. Misty is just one of the many dolphins that has suffered due to these dolphin drives. Thousands of dolphins are either killed or ripped from its family every year.