by Jamison Maeda
Dolphins are considered to be one of the most beautiful and intelligent creatures on Earth, and rightly so. Dolphins live in family groups. The young stay with their mother for up to 8 years. Extensive study has been done on dolphin language and communication and it is believed that they are given names by their mothers which they use to call out to friends and relatives. There have been many accounts of dolphins coming to the aid of other dolphins, helping stranded pilot whales, and even rescuing humans. It is because they are so much like us that dolphins hold a special place in our hearts.
But a horrific scene is taking place right now in Taiji, Japan where the annual dolphin slaughter has begun. Several days ago, a family group of over 250 bottle nose dolphins were violently forced into a small cove in Taiji. Some died during the struggle. They were the lucky ones. Some have been captured to be sold to amusement parks. The rest of the dolphins are still being held in the cove. They’ve been there without food for 4 days now. Some are visibly injured. Most will be slaughtered with spears and knives tomorrow, the water turning red from their blood.
The 2009 documentary “The Cove” brought worldwide attention to the annual slaughter at Taiji. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, as well as the U.S. Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. But despite worldwide outrage, the slaughter continues, this year under plastic tarps to hide the actual knives and spears from cameras.
US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy publicly announced her deep concern of the “inhumaneness” of the slaughter. Not to mention the cruelty of selling traumatized dolphins to amusement parks, or cutting them up for food which is also questionable because of the dangerously high levels of mercury in dolphin flesh.
But Japan is not the biggest threat to the dolphins’ existence.
In 2010, an explosion on the BP Deep Horizon rig turned into the largest oil spill in US history. Eleven workers died, and 5 billion barrels of crude oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. Residents as well as marine life were significantly affected, dolphins in particular.
“I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals” says Lori Schwake, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Of the dolphins examined, most suffered from anemia, and liver and lung disease associated with oil contamination. About half were gravely ill and 17% were not expected to live. An additional 650 dead dolphins were found stranded on the beach in the affected area. This is five times as many dolphins normally found stranded in other areas.
BP will not admit that the oil spill is causing the dolphin deaths, but have agreed to pay over $4.5 billion in fines and other fees. Several BP employees have been charged with lying about the extent of the spill and obstructing justice with more charges still to be filed.
At the end of our civilization, we will not be judged by our wealth or technological developments, but rather by our treatment of others and the environment. We must ask ourselves, if we continue to allow dolphins and other marine animals to be destroyed in such a callous and inhumane way, which species will be next?
“The Cove” is available online at no charge