Over the past couple months, hundreds of conscious and concerned citizens have reached out to me since I began writing some of the gruesome details of the “War Against Nature.”
I was particularly touched by the request of a young lady from Temecula, Calif., who asked me to write about a Taiji dolphin hunter named Izumi Ishii. One morning he woke-up, had an epiphany and renounced his vocation.
Ishii realized that dolphins are the creatures that humans would have been had we not left the water. Here‚Äôs why:
Like humans, dolphins are exceptionally tactile creatures and their skin conveys different levels of information or signals to each animal. Excellent sight enables them to see in the dark, while their range of hearing is 10 times that of humans. They keep the kids in line: Adult dolphins discipline their misbehaved juveniles by driving them to the ocean floor and momentarily holding them there.
Dolphins are individualists. Each animal has its own signature whistle, which is used to keep in contact with its peers.
Dolphins constantly send out noises called “click trains,” which sound, to the untrained ear, like old creaky doors. These complex series of sounds are the most sophisticated, advanced forms of sonar, called echolocation, and are unrivaled by anything on the planet ‚Äî man-made or otherwise. As the sonar waves move through water they encounter objects, bouncing back shapes and contents to be deciphered by the dolphin‚Äôs large brain (which is bigger than a human‚Äôs). Sometimes the sonar is so potent it actually stuns its prey.
Dolphins, it turns out, are a well-rested bunch, sleeping as much as one third of each day. But how do they do this when their predators are always hunting them? The answer is teamwork. Dolphins usually rest in groups that bunch tightly together. One lazy eye per dolphin remains open and, although asleep, their slow methodical echolocatory clicks scan their environment for sharks and other predators. The group essentially forms a sensory integration system of relying on each others‚Äô sonar system to detect any trouble while they rest.
Ishii was born into a dolphin hunting family in Futo, Japan. Today he‚Äôs a self-proclaimed advocate for stopping the dolphin hunt and live trade of dolphins and whales to dolphinariums.
Hardy Jones and Ted Danson co-founded the ocean conservation institute Blue Voice and Jones produced an emotive documentary called “When Dolphins Cry.” It was based upon Ishii‚Äôs experience recalling how when he slit the throats of dolphins their eyes widened and tears appeared as they screamed to death.
For turning over a new leaf, speaking out against the brutality and senseless slaughter of contaminated dolphins, he‚Äôs been ostracized by his community and all Japanese fisherman.
Today, instead of hunting dolphins he earns his modest and peaceful living by providing a splendid eco-tourist, dolphin-watching service on his boat “Bright Sea.” Ishii writes and speaks on the atrocities taking place against dolphins still today in Japan even after the Academy-award winning documentary “The Cove” exposed the Taiji dolphin slaughter.
Ishii believes like all animal activists, including myself, that citizens from around the globe must continue to apply pressure. One way is by e-mailing the Japan Tourism Agency and telling then that you will not visit Japan because they are destroying dolphins and whales.
Japan will respond to pressure exerted from citizens and their respective countries ‚Äî and they will be shamed into change or “gaiastu” because that‚Äôs what works in their nation. We are all required to come together and continue in unison to call for a worldwide ban on dolphin and whale hunting, and live trade of these exquisite aquatic mammals. Refuse to purchase tickets to any dolphinariums or parks with captured marine mammals.
On Friday Feb. 22, in Los Angeles, hundreds of people protested outside the Consulate-General of Japan: The crowd chanted “Stop the whale hunt in the Great Southern Ocean Sanctuary; Stop the dolphin hunt in Taiji and stop the trade of live dolphins and whales for dolphinariums.”
My friend, recording artist, actor, producer and tireless animal rights activist Dyan Kane posted her feelings on Facebook: “The demonstration was powerful and very moving!”
All of us in our respective communities and countries are required to stand up for nature, sign online petitions, send protest e-mails and organize and attend demonstrations. All critters, like the 100,000 mega-pod of bottlenose dolphins recently spotted off San Diego, are entitled to their habitat and the right to life on our blue planet.
Lastly, please support the conservation work of Blue Voice, Save Japan Dolphins, Ocean Preservation Society, Animals Australia and Operation Infinite Patience – Sea Shepherd.
Earth Dr. Reese Halter is broadcaster, distinguished biologist and author of “The Incomparable Honeybee” and “The Insatiable Bark Beetle.”