Report from Taiji: December 24
An orca fetus at the Taiji Whale MuseumI suppose even murderers have families and on this day, the murderers of Taiji stayed home with those families to celebrate the holiday. The weather conditions were perfect for a dolphin hunt, with the sea as still as a deserted forest lake. I could just picture the fishermen looking out of their windows at home and grumbling about the fact that they are forced to stay inside and spend time with their wives and children that they knowingly poison with mercury-laden dolphin meat.
Minamata disease is a very real threat to these people especially for future generations who are at a great risk of being born with deformities. I found some statistics online in regards to a study that was done in Taiji in March of this year by the National Institute for Minamata disease. In this study, 1,137 Taiji residents were tested for the disease via hair samples. The average amount of methyl mercury found in men was 11 parts per million (ppm), compared to a national average of only 2.47 ppm. The women of Taiji showed an average of 6.63 ppm, with the national average being 1.64 ppm. At least 182 Taiji residents showed extremely high levels of mercury and are undergoing additional testing. Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research showed that the mortality rate for Taiji is over 50% higher than other similar-sized villages throughout Japan.
A banger boat gets dry docked for repairsMinamata disease was first discovered in Japan in 1956 after the Chisso Corporation knowingly released methyl mercury into Minamata Bay between the years of 1932 and 1968. Contaminated shellfish were then consumed by the population and by the year 2001, the disease had claimed 1,784 lives with a total of 2,265 victims testing positive for severe mercury poisoning. By 2004, the Chisso Corporation had paid over $86 million in compensation. The general public, with the fishermen whom had harvested the offending seafood in particular, was outraged. So much so that on November 2, 1958, an estimated 1,500 fishermen stormed the Chisso Corporation in a riot and caused over 10 million Japanese Yen (USD 120,000) in damages.
Now, if I put myself into the shoes of the fishermen involved in the Minamata case, I would think that if I found out that my loved ones were being poisoned with a highly toxic element, I would riot too. Being outraged and horrified seems like an appropriate reaction in this instance. However, the fishermen in Taiji are knowingly feeding this toxin to their loved ones and were even selling it to the schools for their children’s lunch program, requiring them to eat as children are not allowed to bring their own lunch.
Perhaps these men are in need of some severe education and a crash course history lesson. Or maybe they are simply in need of some common sense, some compassion, and a soul. You would think that poisoning a child would be considered wrong in any country.
If Japan rioted once, they can do it again. The Japanese public desperately needs to stand up and defend themselves against this horror. The people of this country have obedience and tolerance engrained into their brains from such an early age. Will it take another bout of deformed children being born to open their eyes? Or will they simply continue to look the other way and live in miserable permissiveness?
Fishermen hang out with the media crew at the Fisherman's UnionHere is your opportunity to become a Cove Guardian. To join us in Taiji (voluntarily, and completely at your own cost and risk), write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will get back to you, but please be patient. We cannot keep an eye on the Cove and answer e-mails at the same time. Contributions to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to keep our official presence here are needed and welcome. These contributions cover the costs for transport, telephone, equipment, supplies, food, and lodging for the official Sea Shepherd representative. We will remain here through the end of March and will return for the next season in September 2011.
Thank you to the citizens of Japan who are weighing these issues and beginning to take a stand to solve them. Thank you to everyone who is on the frontlines of this war. This is a war to save ourselves from ourselves. Without your calling and writing Japanese embassies and your own governments, there will be no change. Keep it up! Every time dolphins are pushed into the Cove, let them have it. Every time there is blood in the water, let them have it. Make good consumer choices. Inform everyone you know about the tragedy here and how it is linked to the captive dolphin trade. All who patronize a dolphin show have blood on their hands.
For the dolphins,
Nicole, who will be assisting me during the next three months, will share her experiences while in Taiji on her blog.
Rupert Imhoff, who is also assisting with this campaign, has started a YouTube channel of video taken during his time in Taiji.