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The Cove Exposes Senseless Dolphin Slaughter in Japan

Joel Reynolds

Posted July 23, 2009 in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, The Media and the Environment

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Many people know about NRDC's on-going battle to save whales and dolphins from ear-splitting military sonar.  After watching an extraordinary and award-winning new movie, The Cove, hopefully many more will learn about the current battle to save thousands of dolphins from senseless slaughter in Japan. 

Directed by Louie Psihoyos and produced by the Oceanic Preservation Society, The Cove chronicles former dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry's mission to stop the killing of over 2,000 dolphins every year in the Japanese coastal village of Taiji.  Using hidden microphones and cameras, the film takes the audience on a daring journey into the heart of the once-secret Japanese dolphin hunt.  The film tells the story not only of what goes on in this hidden cove but the lengths that O'Barry and his team had to go to expose it.  It also uncovers the government's practice of unloading contaminated meat on unsuspecting Japanese consumers, including Japanese children, who were served mercury-ridden dolphin meat in mandatory school lunch programs.  

With its Ocean's Eleven-style footage that you must absolutely see - and hear - to believe, The Cove could have depicted, but does not, a Dante's Inferno for dolphins.  Instead, it places the Japanese fishery in a cultural and political context.  Looming behind the film is the failure of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to stop the killing.  Although the IWC banned whaling in 1986, Japan still kills almost 1,000 great whales each year under the guise of "scientific research" as well as an additional 23,000 dolphins and porpoises every year.  Unfortunately, the IWC provides no protection for small marine mammals like the dolphins slaughtered at Taiji.

NRDC is working to change this.  We've urged the Obama Administration to restore our global leadership in the fight to protect whales.   We've also asked the Administration to stop the closed-door negotiations with Japan - originally initiated by the Bush Administration - that would legitimize the commercial killing of whales after a 20-year moratorium, and to engage in broad diplomatic efforts, outside of the IWC, to encourage Japan to end its killing of whales and dolphins for commercial purposes. 

NRDC is also continuing our sonar work.  We are currently fighting to improve mitigation measures for sonar testing and training in the Navy's training ranges.  If left unchecked, the Navy's training would result in more than 2 million "takes" - injury or harassment to marine mammals - every year.  NRDC has urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is currently conducting a comprehensive review of the Navy's sonar mitigation measures, to adopt measures that would protect marine mammals, such as protecting high-value habitat from sonar training.

Although environmental work sometimes has the feel of Mission Impossible, the audience leaves The Cove convinced of both the urgency and the possibility of change.  If The Cove inspires you, now is the time to actThe Cove opens July 31 in New York City and Los Angeles and the following week in cities across the country.  It's a compelling film everyone who feels a connection to marine mammals should see.  To watch a trailer, read reviews or find out when the film will be at a theatre near you, visit The Cove website.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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