Since 2009, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been on the ground in Taiji, Japan, documenting and bringing to light the atrocious dolphin drive hunt taking place from September to March.
Originally dubbed Operation Infinite Patience, this Sea Shepherd campaign has volunteers on the ground enduring constant police harassment and surveillance, physical threats and criticism, all while suffering personal trauma from witnessing the brutal slaughter.
These volunteers are known as Cove Guardians. They come from all over the world, at their own expense, to bring attention to this dolphin drive -- a drive which sees cetaceans being killed, molested, torn apart from their families, and transported to life sentences in aquatic prisons called marine parks where they are forced to perform tricks for tourists.
Killers remove a drowned dolphin from the nets. (Photo credit: Sea Shepherd)
In recent days, there has been a great deal of speculation on social media about Sea Shepherd 'abandoning' Taiji and shutting down the Cove Guardian program. That is wrong. Sea Shepherd has not abandoned any of its campaigns and we remain true to our policy of never giving up until we achieve our goals. We have Infinite Patience!
For the naysayers, there was never any question of not being in Taiji. We even have a film crew already scheduled to be there. Our challenge this year is how to proceed with the Cove Guardian strategy in light of the fact that all veterans, including Cove Guardian leaders, have been denied entry to Japan. These logistical obstacles are not to be misconstrued as Sea Shepherd quitting Taiji.
I began the Taiji campaign in 2003 when I sent Sea Shepherd crew member and photographer, Brooke MacDonald there to get the first images shown to the world. This was before the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove, before the Dolphin Project and before anyone even knew about this slaughter.
The cove water is red with the blood of slaughtered dolphins. (Photo credit: Sea Shepherd)
Brooke's pictures and video remain the best images, for the simple reason she did not encounter any obstacles in taking those pictures. For 13 years we have been on the forefront of the Taiji campaigns. We are the only group to have actually released dolphins when 16 pilot whales were freed after we cut nets and two Sea Shepherd crew members spent a month in jail for doing it.
My own involvement goes back to 1982 when I went to Japan's Iki Island and negotiated the end to their dolphin slaughter. No dolphins have been killed at Iki in 34 years.
My life has been dedicated to defending dolphins around the world, especially in Japan. For people to criticize me and Sea Shepherd for not doing enough is insulting. Sea Shepherd has done amazing work within the boundaries of practicality, the law and the resources available to it. I would also venture to say that it has done more to oppose the slaughter than anyone.
A dolphin is lifted by crane in to a tank for sale and transport. (Photo credit: Sea Shepherd)
Last year, Operation Infinite Patience was renamed Operation Henkaku, which means to reform, to change, to transform. Changing strategies, enhancing strategies and exploring new strategies is not quitting. It is adapting. That is what we are doing.
There was never any question about ending our work in Taiji. The Cove Guardian program is not over. However, it must adapt to Japan's policy of denying entry to veterans, especially Cove Guardian leaders. Sea Shepherd USA is committed to ending the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji and we will continue to have infinite patience to see this commitment through.
For all the Cove Guardians who have participated, the reality is that they made - and still continue to make - a difference. Because of the Cove Guardian program, the world is far more aware of the situation than it was before the program. It is my belief that all the Cove Guardians who witnessed the atrocities in Taiji have had their lives profoundly changed. Their passion continues. My passion continues. Sea Shepherd's passion continues.
Operation Henkaku, as part of the enduring Operation Infinite Patience, continues and there will more announcements coming soon.
Butchering dolphins. (Photo credit: Sea Shepherd)