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Saint Augustine, FL
The purpose of this blog is to update stories from The Voice of the Dolphins and to tell some of the amazing stories that did not make it into the book. Please visit our website www.hardyjonesdolphins.com

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chronology of Efforts to End Dolphin Slaughter at Taiji

                                                  Photo by Dieter Hagmann

by Hardy Jones

This posting attempts to cover only events at Taiji, deliberately omitting what occurred at Iki and Izu during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I welcome any additions or corrections by email.

Admittedly this chronology is heavy in references to BlueVoice due to the fact that I am most familiar with our work. Again, I invite additions and corrections from informed sources.

In 1980 Howard Hall and Hardy Jones, while en route to Iki Island to film a dolphin slaughter, learned of the capture of 200 melon-headed whales (actually a species of dolphin) at Taiji, Japan. They brought their cameras to Taiji and were able to effect the release of all the melon-heads.

In 1999 the massacre of a group of bottlenose dolphins at Futo came to the attention of CBS News. Hardy Jones was interviewed on the subject and seeing the ghastly footage decided to return to Japan to see what might be done to end the dolphin killing.

In 2001 Hardy met Sakae Hemmi, of Japan’s Elsa Nature Conservancy, and the two worked together at Taiji and Futo to end the dolphin killing. They returned each year, in some years accompanied by photographer Larry Curtis, during dolphin hunting season with Hardy filming and Sakae gathering data.

During the early 2000s Environmental Investigation Agency sent representatives to Taiji who were treated very roughly.

In 2002 Hardy’s film, When Dolphins Cry, premiered on National Geographic Channels worldwide. It portrayed the killing of dolphins at Taiji and the story of the conversion of Izumi Ishii from dolphin hunter to dolphin watch leader.

In 2003 representatives of Sea Shepherd went to Taiji. Two of their members cut nets holding dolphins in Hatagajiri Bay. Whether any dolphins escaped is an open question. But the act brought both international news coverage and heightened security at the killing cove.

2003 was also the first year of Ric O’Barry’s efforts to end the killing of dolphins at Taiji. He has returned to Taiji for extended periods each year since and later starred in the film The Cove.

In 2005 PBS broadcast Hardy Jones’ The Dolphin Defender, a film that included both the story of the slaughter of dolphins at Taiji and the beginning of dolphin watching at Futo.

During much of the first decade of the 2000s WDCS supported the work of BlueVoice in Japan and conducted outreach programs elsewhere in Japan to educate the Japanese public about the dolphin slaughter and the dangers of consuming mercury laden dolphin meat.

During the years 2007, 08, 09, 10 and 2011 German journalist Dieter Hagmann visited Taiji and brought back extraordinary footage of the brutality of the dolphins slaughter. His work appeared in TV-Stations: ARD, ZDF. Newspapers: SUN (British), Bild (German), Aftonbladet (Sweden), Associated Press (Japan), Zeeburg Nieuws (Netherland) Press Agencies: PRNewswire, asiaprnews, Reuters, CNW, DPA with many online publications.

Since 2006 BlueVoice, in conjunction with Elsa Nature Conservancy, has been conducting tests of dolphin meat for mercury and organic pollutants such as PCBs. Results have shown high to exceptionally high levels of these contaminants. Tests also showed extremely high levels of mercury in persons who consumed dolphin meat.

In 2007 surfing legend Dave Rastovich along with film star Hayden Pantierre paddled surf boards into Hatagajiri Bay and brought international attention to the situation at Taiji.

At roughly this time, a film crew organized by Louie Psihoyos began work on a film centered around Ric O’Barry and his crusade to stop the killing at Taiji. The result would be a documentary film named “The Cove.”

In 2008 a Japanese journalist, Hiroshi Hasegawa, received data developed by Elsa and BlueVoice that documented high levels of mercury in four dolphin-eating Taiji citizens. Hasegawa then conducted additional testing that found even higher numbers for mercury among the dolphin-eating population. The results were published in AERA, a major Japanese magazine. His article spurred the National Institute for Minamata Disease to propose testing citizens of Taiji for mercury. The tests showed that citizens of the town had very high levels of mercury but claimed they found no impact on health. That conclusion has been widely disparaged by international experts.

In 2010 the Psihoyos film, The Cove, won film festival after film festival culminating in winning an Academy Award. This film brought a tsunami of protest against the practice of killing dolphins and raised the issue around the world. Psihoyos and his cohorts have continued their efforts in Japan to end the dolphin slaughter and The Cove continues to reach audiences worldwide.

During the 2010 – 11 hunting season Sea Shepherd maintained a group of activists at Taiji known as the Cove Guardians. They provided web reporting throughout the entire period of the hunt.

In 2011 BlueVoice sponsored tests conducted by Elsa Nature Conservancy of dolphin meat from Okinawa and Taiji. The tests showed elevated levels of mercury and PCBs. The tests results have been widely disseminated in Japan.

At the beginning of the 2011 – 2012 dolphin hunting season Ric O’Barry organized a prayer vigil at Taiji and, along with associates such as Leilani Munter, provided information on the hunt during September.

Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians also returned to Taiji and are reporting from the scene.

Despite these extensive efforts the hunt and slaughter continues.

Monday, September 12, 2011

MacIntosh to Dolphins. Do You Read Me?

The following blog is an excerpt from The Voice of the Dolphins. It's an account of our second effort in 2004 to communicate with dolphins by computer and yielded surprising results. For more on The Voice of the Dolphins go to http://hardyjonesdolphins.com.

The computer communication system John Ross had devised produced some interesting results during the final days of the trip. I joined John standing on the white sand bottom in about fifteen feet of water. Dolphins lazed around us. It seemed a silent world except for the inhalation and exhalation of our scuba tanks and some barely audible high frequency clicks and whistles from the dolphins. But when John passed me the frequency shifting headphones, what had seemed to be a piccolo turned into a full symphony orchestra. Once again, I realized that for dolphins, it’s not a silent world but rather a phenomenally rich three-dimensional acoustical universe, each sound conveying meaning, nuance, and vast amounts of information. Humans’ inability to hear dolphins is one of the reasons most experience them as mute.
John transmitted two kinds of calls from the computer. The first was a synthesized call similar in pitch to an actual dolphin whistle but was not the real thing. The dolphins returned that call with a perfect imitation, just as they had in 1978.
Then something surprising happened. John recorded dolphin vocal output and replayed those sounds to the dolphins. They responded not with mimicry but with an original phrase as though attempting to carry on the conversation. Of course, we didn’t know what they had said in the first place or what their reply was to the playback. I don’t delude myself into thinking that our efforts will somehow crack the code of dolphin communication. But there is a meta-message in what is taking place in those turquoise waters over brilliant white sand and that is that both species are interested in the interaction. That is the message and it is huge.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What Did I Say to the Dolphins?

     It’s widely known that dolphins vocalize and hear at frequencies far higher than humans. They hear our yells and grunts when were in the water. I’ve even brought MacIntosh Computers into the water to project and record sounds. We’ve had some remarkable results with those efforts. But the most mind blowing reaction came from the dolphins when I brought a dog whistle into the water. Dog whistles create a sound that is higher than human hearing. They can be heard by dogs, but not humans. I thought this might intrigue the dolphins. It did.
     Normally I carry a pretty hefty movie camera with me which is necessary if you’re going to make films but it also cuts me off from much of the action as I peer through the lens. To use the dog whistle I had to grudgingly leave the camera behind.
     Dolphins were milling around our boat when I entered the water, paying no particular attention to us. I swam about 50 yards from the boat that was anchored in water fifteen feet deep on the western edge of the Little Bahama Banks. I put the whistle in my mouth, looked around, and blew.
     Instantly three young dolphins rocketed over to me and began swimming in extremely tight circles around me. The power and speed of their motion through the water shook me like a rag doll. It was astonishing. Then a large male raced over to me and began to jump directly in front of me. It truck me as a very aggressive action and I decided not to blow the whistle again.
     I swam for the boat yelling “get me my camera” but by the time I had it in hand the dolphins had disappeared. This is one of the most amazing encounters I’ve ever had with dolphins and I would NOT recommend anyone try it. As I said, the reaction in the dolphins seemed to be disconcerted and aggressive.