Gaiatsu: The Cove and Blood Dolphin$  

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"A dolphin's smile is the greatest deception.
It creates the illusion that they're always happy." – Ric O’Barry


Japan. Slaughter. Dolphins. They don’t seem related, but they are. Use them all in one sentence and you get the whole idea.

I never thought anyone who’s Japanese cannot do anything that will put his nation to shame but the fishermen of Taiji, Wakayama are doing just that.

The dolphin slaughter in Taiji was brought to light by a 2009 documentary film that later won the 82nd Academy Awards despite controversies and the mixed reactions. The film attracted a wide media attention. It was described to be a Gaiatsu, or foreign pressure, for the Japanese whaling authority.

We know, the movie is so 2009, but we’re thinking it’s still worth writing about, after all, people are still talking about it. As a matter of fact, while I was writing this article, I saw events on Facebook, both happening in the US, of screening of the film in universities organized by vegan groups and Asian associations.

Bicol Organization of Neo-Journalists (BONJOUR) in partnership with the Earth Island Institute – Philippines and in cooperation with YOUTHink, United Nations Youth Association of the Philippines (UNYAP) and Rotaract Club of Legazpi Central organized a special documentary screening of the internationally-acclaimed documentary at the Pacific Mall Cinemas 1 and 2, Mar. 10 and 11.

“[Dolphins], too, have rights and we must uphold them. After all, we consider ourselves as the superior species,” Jovic Maurice Yee, project head and BONJOUR external vice president said.

BONJOUR President Jessa Mae Jarilla expounded, “We are not the only ones who deserve to live in the world.”

So, what’s so peculiar about it?
If you thought Ric O’Barry is the least likely to be in opposition of dolphin captivity, least of all become a marine activist, you haven’t seen the movie.

O’Barry, the author of (breath in deep, this title is long) Behind the Dolphin Smile: A True Story that Will Touch the Hearts of Animal Lovers Everywhere, is the dolphin trainer of the five dolphins which played the part of the possibly most famous dolphin in the 1964 National Broadcasting Company television series Flipper, a show that lasted three years with 88 episodes. He worked for Miami Seaquarium. He was even the highest paid dolphin trainer in the 60s. So what made him quit his job and do things that would make all dealers guilty of wanting to get him arrested or killing him?

After one of the dolphins, Kathy, committed suicide in his own hands, O’Barry said in the film, he finally saw the infliction of pain and suffering to the dolphins brought by the captivity. He said that dolphins can commit suicide by ‘not taking the next breath.’

Dolphins, like all other cetaceans, are voluntary breathers. This means they can decide whether to take or not take the next breath. Because of this, they are sometimes called conscious breathers, constantly being conscious in order for them to continuously keep breathing, even when asleep. So unlike us, they can just commit suicide whenever they feel like everything around them is going wrong, something I wish we can do, too. Kidding.

This made Ric O’Barry decide to be a defender of the ocean mammal. And for a number of times after that, he was unremittingly going back and forth prisons. The first time was when he let Charlie Brown, a dolphin that he himself captured, break loose in Bimini, Bahamas just the day after Kathy died. Getting in prison didn’t stop him in his advocacy. He promised not to quit until every dolphin in captivity is free and enjoying the wild where they really should be, their real environment.

In the film, O’Barry and Louie Psihoyos (the film’s director, a former National Geographic still photographer) formed a crew of free divers, marine biologists, adrenaline junkie, marine activists (that include Isabel Lucas who previously took part in an attempt to stop the hunt in 2006 with 29 other Surfers for Cetaceans members), and an underwater cinematographer. O’Barry and the others had to go James Bond during nights in a series of missions to and fro the national park and their hotel.

In the location where the slaughters happen every year, cameras are banned and tourists’ view is blocked. This is in spite of the fact that the place is a national park. The film’s crew had to use cameras that looked like rock in order to film the dolphin slaughter with the help of a motion picture visual company (the one that provided the visual effects for those fan favorites Pirates of the Caribbean , all of the first four movies, and where Adam Savage, Grant Imahara and Tory Belleci of Mythbusters all worked for).

After screenings all over the world, the documentary brought many activists to Taiji, most of them were no-Japanese, thus the term Gaiatsu.

Watch the film. You will forever be thankful O’Barry and Psihoyos decided to make a documentary about the dolphin hunt. After that, you’ll surely change your impressions on dolphinariums and sea parks.

Blood Dolphin$
The television series, Blood Dolphin$, does not only focus on the Taiji dolphins.

O’Barry is in a mission once again, but this time with his son, Lincoln O’Barry (the series director), Kate Tomlinson (still photographer), and Pete Zuccarini (underwater cinematographer) with the help of Lawrence Makili, a Solomon Islander who is also a dolphin activist.

The title refers to the blood trade of dolphins happening in other parts of the world.

After the first episode about Taiji, O’Barry and Lincoln travels to Solomon Islands where dolphins are killed for their teeth (used as currency and dowry), and hunted for dolphin dealers, an industry in Solomon Islands that Chris Porter introduced to the locals.

The mission was launched by an invitation from Chris Porter (not the basketball player, nor the footballer, nor the standup comedian. God!, there are too many Chris Porters in the world), who said he came up with the project called Free the Pod, a move to release 17 dolphins that were held captive in Porter’s pen. In other words, Chris Porter, a dolphin exporter, is turning his coat over to side with the dolphin activists.

Someone would think it’s far fetched to stop dolphin hunting in the Solomons because it’s part of their tradition and all, right? But later in the series, the O’Barrys learned that the tradition of killing dolphins has long stopped and was again re-introduced to the locals by Porter. Otherwise stated, Porter is responsible to all the slaughters that were once again happening throughout the country.

Porter is O’Barry’s long time resistor. They have clashed before regarding the dolphins in the former’s enclave in Gavutu Island.

In the second episode, Lincoln goes undercover in the nation’s capital, Honiara, where he discovers captive dolphins swimming in pools filled with their own feces. Those dolphins remained unrescued but were transferred to a larger offshore pen.

The talk with Porter, just like their previous meeting in 2006, released no dolphins.

They were successful, on the other hand, in dealing with the people of the village of Fanalei to stop dolphin hunting, something which led to the agreement of other villages to the deal. At the end of the episode, a video of Porter releasing the 17 dolphins was shown. The Solomons mission lasted for two episodes, ending the series. Yup, there are only three episodes. Maybe they should have made an episode at Subic.

Don’t but a ticket
So what makes us all different to the 5% population of Taiji that knows the slaughter activity if we still buy tickets and get excited over dolphins jumping on air, playing with big balls, throwing people on air, ? Nothing. By watching and buying a ticket to dolphin shows we are constantly demanding dealers to still buy and import dolphins and arousing them into continuing what they are doing. *Enter dolphin suicide*. *Enter more work for O’Barry*. *Enter more activism*.

O’Barry must have given an understatement saying that the dolphin industry of putting them in captivity and making on them while they’re on large aquariums is like prostitution. The least we can do now, as ordinary people engaging in activism towards the issue, is to not buy a ticket in dolphin shows.

Dolphins in captivity exhibit abnormal behaviors, unlike when they are in the wild. The dolphins you see in dolphinariums and aquatic parks are nothing similar to those ones in the wild.

The whale watching industry in Donsol made the town 1st-class from being a 6th-class municipality.

You might wanna try whale watching, or observing the cetaceans in their natural habitat. Year round, here in the Philippines, dolphins are observed at Central Visayas, Batanes, Palawan and Davao Gulf.

Painting 23, 000 dolphins all over the nation
If you think that’s not possible, sorry to disappoint you, but someone was able to do just that.

For eight months last year, Amado Guerrero ‘AG’ Saño painted dolphins in memory of the 23, 000 dolphins killed in Taiji each year. This he did in campaign against the hunt in Japan and the dolphin shows here in the Philippines. During that time, Saño had hundreds of volunteers helping him.

So what now?
I cannot deny the truth to anyone, before The Cove, I thought the dolphin smile tells that they’re fine in captivity while in fact they’re all straining to survive from all the stress of all things happening inside sea parks (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s it, you need to watch the film!).

When they all need to be out there, catching fish, living in their real habitat, here are the dolphin dealers being their horror and all.

I’ve frequently asked this question: What can we do now?

Well, the first thing to do was already mentioned. Two, What you can do is, tell your friends about the movie and the television series. I’ve done my part writing this, but this surely is not the last of it. I am most willing to hand you a copy of the movie. Find your way into our office.

Three, if you have a blog, you know what to do. It won’t hurt to blog about it. Four, follow @TheCoveNews on Twitter. Five, visit TakePart.com/TheCove. Six, roll a dice, if you get three consecutive sixes, you saved a dolphin. (Sorry, I can’t help making that up). Six, this may seem remotely connected but it helps: help preserve out aquatic resources. Dispose of your waste properly and fix any leaks at your home. Seven, write. Write to politicians when you come up with any idea that has something to do with helping preserve the environment.

Don't forget to leave a comment. Thank you!

This entry was posted on Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 12:48 AM and is filed under , , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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