It was a 49 second YouTube video. Some of the footage was shaky and awkward, but one thing that was perfectly clear was that a lone dolphin was floating in a tiny above-ground pool on the grounds of Dolphin Base in Taiji. The water in the pool was black, and the dolphin, who was clinging to a dirty yellow buoy, barely moved. This groundbreaking video, taken on December 29, 2010, was a first glimpse behind the walls of the Dolphin Base complex. It also sparked a worldwide movement now known as “Save Misty the Dolphin.”
After Andy Romanowski uploaded the video and shared it via social media, activists got busy. Adam Filby and Alyson Walsh-Fernandez started a Facebook campaign, Save Misty the Dolphin. The purpose of the campaign was to put pressure on Dolphin Base to MOVE the dolphin, dubbed “Misty” out of that stagnant pool and into a clean water. Caring people around the world became involved in the effort. Thousands of calls, emails and faxes were logged. On January 2, 2011, Cove Guardian Libby Miller noted in her daily blog for Sea Shepherd that she had a brief conversation with the vet at Dolphin Base. Said Miller:
He specifically mentioned that he wished the phone calls and e-mails to Dolphin Base would stop. His statement indicates that what the general public is doing by taking the time and making an effort to call and write to Dolphin Base is actually working! Not only is it working, but it’s changing things and making a difference. Each and every one of you is contributing and actively participating to change Misty’s situation. And for that, we thank you.
On January 4, 2011, Misty was moved to a cleaner pool. Cove Guardians continued to track his condition until a devastating tsunami hit northern Japan in March 2011. Volunteers with Sea Shepherd and Save Japan Dolphins, who had traveled to Otsuchi, Japan, to expose the Dall’s porpoise hunt, barely escaped with their lives. As an international community, we grieved for the thousands of innocent lives destroyed on that fateful day. Our thoughts remain with those who continue to struggle to rebuild in the wake of the March 2011 disaster.
Following that first season, our social media campaign grew. During the 2011-12 Taiji dolphin hunt, we continued to monitor and report on daily activities in The Cove. Just as the hunt came to a close in February, Save Misty the Dolphin partnered with Sea Shepherd Hong Kong in a successful initiative to stop the Hong Kong Airlines from transporting dolphins from The Cove. Into the spring, we worked with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to bring attention to the plight of scapegoated sea lions who are being targeted by Oregon state officials for the act of eating salmon at the Bonneville Dam.
Even though the sea lions have been determined to be eating a much smaller percentage of the salmon than are taken by the fishery for human consumption, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife authorized and ordered the branding and killing of California sea lions by lethal injection because the marine mammals are said to compete with fishermen for salmon on the Columbia River. The sea lion campaign has revealed not only how our laws and the implementing agencies are out of step with humane - and reasonable - treatment of these sea lions, it was also a demonstration of the fallacy of boycotts.
Just as most people in Japan are not aware of the Taiji dolphin hunt, most people in the United States are not aware of the Bonneville sea lion cull. If one follows the logic of those who support a boycott of Japan because of the Taiji dolphin slaughter, we would also support a boycott of the United States because of the Bonneville sea lions. Neither solution is logical, and neither solution will stop the spilling of blood. Why punish people who have nothing whatsoever to do with Taiji or Bonneville for the actions of a few? It is our opinion that such actions are not effective and serve only to alienate those who may be in a position to make real change. In the case of Japan, we believe that the collective voice of Japanese citizens is key to ending the Taiji dolphin hunt. Earlier in 2012, Japanese citizens gathered for the first time ever to protest the killings in The Cove. This was a major step for a group of brave activists who stood strong in the face of angry nationalists, who shouted and even spat upon the peaceful protestors. Save Misty the Dolphin applauds these heroes for the dolphins. We wish them only the best and stand ready to support them as they continue to seek solutions from within.
July 12, 2012, was an historic day as we were finally able to report that Misty is alive in Taiji. Months of investigative work preceded this news, which was supported by video and photographic evidence. Throughout summer 2012, we had the great privilege of working with folks from Save Japan Dolphins and activists around the world to produce Japan Dolphins Day 2012. On August 31, 2012, caring people in nearly 100 cities around the globe took part in the single largest gathering ever for the dolphins of Taiji. The video below includes clips from protests around the world and a glimpse of our friend Misty!
As we are now well into our 3rd season of reporting on Taiji, we want to share some observations. While watching what happens in The Cove is nothing short of horrid, we do see change. Following the recent destruction of a large pod of bottlenose dolphins, there can be no question that what happens in Taiji is at the behest of a greedy captive industry. When trainers share boats with killers and stand idly by as dolphins are drowned in nets, there can be no question that the captive industry, which claims to care about dolphins, is preserving that industry in full awareness and at the expense of the casualties of Taiji. We see killers going to great pains to hide their murderous deeds. We see annual decreases in the number of animals being killed. We see dolphin meat sitting unsold on store shelves in Taiji. We see heroic volunteers from Sea Shepherd and Save Japan Dolphins who bear witness and tell the word about Taiji. We see the number of people involved in the cause increasing by many thousands and we believe wholeheartedly that all of these factors will spell the eventual end of the Taiji hunt. A compassionate world has very little tolerance for the atrocities of Taiji.
It is the commitment of our 11-member crew to continue doing what we do until that day comes when the waters of The Cove are forever blue and every last one is free, but we know - as we have known from that very first day - that the strength of Save Misty the Dolphin lies not in the members of our social media team, but rather in an amazing community built on six simple words: Never be silent - never give up. Our dear friend Melissa Bowers, whom we lost earlier this year, understood the importance of those words. We miss her every single day. We continue the fight in her honor and know that she is watching from above and still never giving up.
We toast each of you in the New Year and wish you only the best for 2013. Thank YOU for all you do to make the world a better place for vulnerable marine mammals.