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A Special Report From Sea Shepherd’s Operation Henkaku

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logo-Operation-Henkaku-120xThe 2015-2016 Taiji dolphin drive hunt is over. This season, the government of Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, authorized Taiji’s dolphin killers to capture or slaughter up to 1,873 dolphins. In some of the lowest numbers observed in recent years, between 630 and 650 dolphins were ruthlessly driven into the cove and slaughtered. Another 117 were taken captive, destined to spend the rest of their lives in shallow tanks, cement pools, or cramped sea pens performing circus tricks for paying tourists.

Sea Shepherd’s dedicated team of volunteer Cove Guardians was on the ground every single day of the hunt.  Livestreaming the capture, selection, and slaughter, the Cove Guardians continued to bring international attention to this outrageous crime against the oceans. Despite ridiculous claims by those involved, the Taiji dolphin drive hunt is not tradition; it is a profit-driven enterprise supported by the Japanese government and fueled by the lucrative worldwide trade in captive dolphins.

Although several Cove Guardian veterans were barred entry into Japan, Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians stood their ground, as they have since 2010, to make sure the world sees exactly what Taiji tries to hide. The dolphin killers continued to use tarps to try to hide the killing from Sea Shepherd’s cameras, but tarps can’t hide the blood that turns the water from blue to red or the sounds of the frenzied dolphins as they face their executioners. Sea Shepherd’s livestream footage irrefutably dismissed any and all claims of a “humane slaughter.” During one slaughter, a pilot whale escaped from beneath the tarps after being pithed with a metal rod. For several minutes, the profusely bleeding and suffering animal attempted to swim away, eventually slipping under the surface of the water.

Each drive brought new horrific sights and each month was marked by even more merciless acts of violence on the part of the killers.

The pod and albino Rissos dolphin huddle close together. Photo: Sea Shepherd

The annual hunt began on September 1, 2015. The first drive of the season ended with a pod of Risso’s dolphins netted into the cove on September 11. During the ensuing slaughter, the Cove Guardians observed one dolphin trying to escape by launching out of the water and up onto the jagged rocks in the killing cove. As some of the killers dragged the doomed dolphin back into the cove, others looked on and laughed at the plight of the terrified animal.

Following the slaughter of another pod of Risso’s dolphins on October 19, 2015, the killers dumped several bodies at sea. Sea Shepherd believe they took this extreme measure to avoid exceeding their annual Risso’s dolphin-killing quota.  The next day, the Cove Guardians discovered the remains of a dead juvenile Risso’s dolphin washed-up on the beach.

November 19, 2015, began four days of anguish as approximately 69 – 74 pilot whales were captured and held in the cove. By November 22, 46 members of this intergenerational family had been slaughtered, and several more succumbed from the sheer stress of the drive and ensuing selection ordeal. One pilot whale was taken captive but died days later in a Taiji harbor sea pen.

December 2015 saw a pod of bottlenose dolphins captured and held in the cove for three days. Bottlenose is the dolphin species most prized by the captive industry. With the assistance of trainers, 30 animals were taken captive. Those dolphins not deemed to be “pretty” enough for captivity were slaughtered while the same trainers laughed and watched.

January always seems to be an especially bloody month in Taiji. This year was no exception.The killers hunted on 22 days and slaughtered pods on 14 of those days. Forty percent of the entire 2015-2016 killing quota was met in January 2016. Nine drives took place in February 2016, with 20 more bottlenose dolphins taken captive and forced into the tiny sea pens in Taiji harbor.

Taiji January Numbers

The 105 bottlenose dolphins, seven Risso’s dolphins, one pilot whale, and four Pacific white-sided dolphins taken into captivity during the 2015-16 Taiji dolphin hunt are now condemned to a dismal “life” as slaves to the captive industry. Forced to perform circus tricks in order to receive a reward of drug-laced frozen fish, many of these animals will die prematurely from stress, trauma or both.

The Taiji dolphin killers repeatedly claim that the dolphin drive hunt is their “tradition.” They also blame the dolphins for decreasing fish stocks and say that the drive hunt is a form of “pest control.” At the same time, they proclaim the pods of dolphins and whales who migrate through the waters of Taiji to be their property. In reality, the desire to hunt and capture dolphins has nothing to do with pest control or tradition. It has everything to do with greed. Captive dolphins are a multi-million-dollar worldwide industry that starts in Taiji, Japan.

The Taiji dolphin killers are profiting from a demand for captive dolphins. If you proudly display a photo kissing a captive dolphin, if you support marine parks and dolphinariums, you might as well stand alongside the killers in Taiji’s bloody cove. Your entrance fee to these places fuels the tanks for another hunt.

After five campaigns of Operation Infinite Patience, this season’s Operation Henkaku sought to focus specific attention on the captive trade. Taiji is all about supply and demand. The hunting and slaughter of dolphins will not end for good until the demand for captive dolphins ends for good.

While the grueling 2015 -2016 Taiji dolphin drive hunt season has now ended, the pressure on those who hold dolphins captive must not! Let’s close down the killing cove for good by bankrupting the worldwide captive trade. Dolphins are not assets, commodities or property. They don’t belong on transport trucks or cargo planes, and they certainly don’t belong in tanks. We must all continue to be a voice for the dolphins. Sea Shepherd have called on everyone who followed Operation Henkaku to keep pressuring travel agents, hotels, cruise lines, marine parks, and dolphinariums to stop profiting from the misery of captivity.

Tell everyone you know to “Just say NO to the dolphin show!”

For more information, visit Sea Shepherd’s Operation Henkaku site here.

Jeff Goodman is the Editor-at-Large for Scubaverse.com with responsibility for conservation and underwater videography. Jeff is an award-winning TV wildlife and underwater cameraman and film maker who lives in Cornwall, UK. With over 10,000 dives to his credit he has dived in many different environments around the world.

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Introducing the Cinebags Dome Port Case CB74

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The CB74 Port Case is a heavy duty case to protect and carry your compact sized dome port. Designed to protect and transport 6″-8″ ports from Nauticam, Zen, Sea&Sea and similar sized ports.

The CB74 is made of a heavy duty tarpaulin fabric with padded sidewalls to protect your dome port in your dive luggage. The oversized zippers allow for quick easy access to the port pouch.

A mesh pouch is attached to flap can be used to store your spare port cover.


A small velcro pouch is located in the back compartment of the CB74 for small parts like spare o-rings, or o-ring grease.


The front of the CB74 has a neoprene carry handle to make transporting the port case a breeze. The opposite side has an area you can write your name and also label the pouch so it can be easily identified.

Features:

  • heavy duty tarpaulin fabric
  • padded sidewalls
  • oversized zippers
  • mesh pouch for accessories
  • mesh pouch to store port cover
  • neoperene carry handle

The CB74 Dome Port and other CineBags Underwater Products are available through the dedicated underwater dealer network. 

For more information visit the Cinebags website by clicking here.

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Dive Training Blogs

When is it a good day to dive?

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By Rick Peck

The standard answer is “It’s always a good day to dive.” The real question is: When is it a day we should not dive?

There are several factors that go into a decision for a dive day.

  • Weather
  • Waves
  • Tides (if applicable)
  • Physical condition
  • Mental condition
  • Water visibility

Weather

We would all like to dive in bright sunny conditions. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. It is always a good idea to check the forecast before a dive day. The weather directly before a dive might be bright and sunny, but in some areas, thunderstorms roll in quickly. While it may be an interesting experience to see a lightning storm underwater with the strobe effect, we do have to come up sometime. A 30+ pound lightning rod strapped to your back makes for a very dangerous exit.

Wind is also a concern. Storms that roll in quickly can bring gust fronts that make for dangerous conditions. It could be flat and calm when you enter, and you may ascend after the dive into 5-6 foot chop with a dangerous exit onto the boat. Having a boat drop on your head or getting tangled in the ladder is not fun.

Waves and Tides

Shore diving in a coastal area makes waves a concern. Waves are generated by wind speed, duration and fetch. If there is a storm offshore you could be seeing big waves with very little wind in your area. Linked to the wave action is the tide. At some sites, waves tend to fizzle out at extreme high tide, making for easier entry and exits.

Tides can also affect your dive in an inlet. There is a popular dive site in my area that normally dives from a half-hour before high tide to a half-hour after high tide because of the current generated by the tidal change. The tidal currents can become so strong that an average diver can’t overcome them. The question is: does the tide change match the time you have available to dive? Your local dive shop should have recommendations on where and when is the best time to shore dive. As we learned in our Open Water class, local knowledge is the best.

Physical Condition

Are you healthy enough to dive? Do you have the physical conditioning to safely do the dive you are planning? Pushing your physical limits directly after a cold or allergy attack could lead to an ear injury or worse. If you have been sick, maybe you don’t have the energy reserves to rescue yourself or a buddy if required. The typical “Oh, I’ll be alright” could put not only you but your dive buddy at risk as well. Don’t let your ego write checks that your body can’t fulfill.

Mental Condition

You could compare diving to driving a car. We have all heard of distracted driving. If you are mentally upset or dealing with a great deal of stress, it might be prudent to evaluate whether it’s a good day to dive. Frustration and an urgency to get into the water to “relax” could mean you are skipping items on your buddy checks and self-checks. Unless you have the mental discipline to set these worries aside, it is probably better to dive another day.

Water Visibility

While there is a segment of the diving population that likes to “Muck Dive,” in general we prefer to see what is around us. One type of diving where visibility is important is drift diving. It is a two-fold problem, if you stay shallow enough to avoid obstructions, you can’t see anything. If you go deep enough to see the bottom, depending on the speed of the current, there is a possibility of being driven into a coral head or some other obstruction that you don’t see approaching. It is also much easier to become separated from your buddy. Remember to discuss and set a lost buddy protocol before the dive.

Summary

While it seems like all the stars and moon must align in order to safely dive, it’s really simple. Check the weather, check the tides (If applicable), do a self-assessment, and don’t be reluctant to cancel a dive if the conditions warrant it when you arrive at the dive site. A little planning and forethought will lead to a safe enjoyable dive. Always remember to dive within the limits of your training, conditioning, and skill set.


To find out more about International Training, visit www.tdisdi.com.

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