Sea Shepherd Crew Held for Photographing Dolphin Kill

TAIJI, Japan, October 7, 2003 (ENS) - In the small seaside town of Taiji, three members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society were arrested Monday and held by police for documenting the annual dolphin slaughter in the area with video and still cameras.

Brooke MacDonald of Canada, Morgan Whorwood of the United Kingdom, and American Nicholas Hensey traveled to Japan to document the dolphin roundup and killing by local fisherman near Taiji.

On Monday, fishermen in Taiji herded 40 dolphins into the bay and began to stab them with knives.

The three Sea Shepherd crewmembers emerged from hiding and began shooting with their weapons - cameras. Two had been camped out on the cliffs overlooking the bay for five days and one was posing as a tourist in the town, the organization said in a statement today.


Dolphin roundup in Taiji, Japan (Photos courtesy BlueVoice)
In a previous incident the fishermen had assaulted documentary filmmaker Hardy Jones. They had been given a warning then by the Osaka police to refrain from ever again attacking journalists or foreigners who film the hunt, the Sea Shepherd Society said.

Angry fishermen forgot the warning, and began to climb the cliffs to get at MacDonald and Whorwood. The fishermen demanded their film and threatened to kill the two women.

Down near the seawall, field campaign leader Hensey was alerted to the assault by radio by MacDonald. He sought help from the police station but they shut the door in his face, the Sea Shepherd said.

He was able to call the police from a nearby village and when the arrived, the police arrested the three crewmembers after the fishermen claimed they had been assaulted by the Sea Shepherd crew.

MacDonald hid her film in her underwear and stashed a tape of the assault in the rocks where she was able to retrieve it later.

The three Sea Shepherd activists were held for several hours, questioned, fingerprinted and photographed, and then released without being charged. They were warned to not film the dolphin slaughter.

While it is not illegal in Japan to document a dolphin roundup, video of the slaughter is very graphic and is effective in raising awareness of the issue worldwide, the organization said.

The Sea Shepherd is releasing the film footage to the media, and the society is sending more crew and cameras to Taiji to document any further dolphin massacres.

The society said today that the three activists will file charges against the fishermen with the Osaka police. They intend to submit a complaint against the Taiji police for failing to respond to their request for help.


Dolphin killing at Taiji takes place every autumn.
Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson has encouraged his crew to remain in Japan and to not back down to the "killers of Taiji."

“I have seen the sadistic pleasure some of these fishermen display when they spear, stab, and slash the dolphins," Watson said. "Men who can inflict such wanton cruelty, who can laugh as a dolphin’s blood spurts and gushes into the bay are capable of murdering humans, especially humans who stand between them and their helpless prey."

"My crew are armed with cameras. The fishermen are armed with spears and razor sharp knives," said Watson. "We have three against hundreds. The odds are uneven but my crew will not and cannot surrender the killing grounds to such callous killers. Better to stay and risk injury or death than to turn their back on such evil. I’m proud of my crew and they will stay the course for as long as they are physically able to do so.”

The embassies of Great Britain, Canada and the United States have been informed that their citizens have been attacked and continue to be threatened by violence from the Taiji fishermen.

Sea Shepherd was instrumental in stopping dolphin slaughter on Iki Island, Japan, in the early 1980s when the local fishermen signed an agreement with Watson to permanently end the practice.

In defense of dolphin and whale killing, the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association said earlier this year, "Recently some coastal fishermen who harvest fish have been reporting that the numbers of whales are growing too large, that the whales are eating a lot of fish, and that thus the volume of fish the fishermen are able to catch is decreasing. Therefore, they argue, it is essential to cull the whale population to restore ecosystem balance."

Similar slaughters are frequent and increasing in other coastal fishing villages such as Futo, the Sea Shepherd Society says. Although dolphin meat is contaminated with industrial pollutants, it can be passed as prized whale meat in markets. Pet food and fertilizer are also made from the dolphin meat.