On Tuesday, the opening day of dolphin-hunting season, marine mammal specialist Ric O'Barry (right) and his son Lincoln stand near a cove where fishermen often kill dolphins in Taiji, Japan.
A signboard posted by Taiji Fishery Cooperative at a port in Taiji warns strangers away.
A signboard posted by Taiji Fishery Cooperative at a port in Taiji warns strangers away. Junji Kurokawa/AP
Marine mammal specialist Ric O'Barry, star of The Cove.
Marine mammal specialist Ric O'Barry, star of The Cove. Junji Kurokawa/AP
This week marked the opening of dolphin hunting season in Japan. During the six-month season, thousands of dolphins are corralled into narrow coves and captured for sale to aquariums or amusement parks. Those not captured are killed for meat. But this year, something different happened.
After Taiji's annual dolphin hunt was covertly filmed for a documentary, the little fishing village has suddenly found itself at the uncomfortable center of a media spotlight.
Police and fishermen in Taiji don't allow filming of the hunt, part of the villagers' everyday lives. But a team of activists and filmmakers went undercover to shoot the footage, telling their story in the 2009 documentary, The Cove.
Since its release, the documentary — which won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival — has spurred an international outcry. In one case, Taiji's sister city — Broome in Western Australia — suspended its relationship with Taiji for as long as dolphins continue to be killed.
This week, activist and Cove star Ric O'Barry went back to Taiji for opening day of dolphin season. He was accompanied by a group of international journalists.
But this time, he didn't see any dolphins being killed. He didn't even see fishermen on the water.
That day, he blogged, "Today is a good day for dolphins."
While he's optimistic, O'Barry tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz that he isn't sure how long this will last.
The hunters are trying to figure out what to do, he says. They're thinking, " 'Should we go out? Should we be exposed? The world is watching.' And so far, they haven't killed any dolphins."
"I'm hoping it's over," O'Barry says, "that they'll just give up and stop killing dolphins." But he concedes that the future is cloudy. "We don't know what's going to happen. It's a day-by-day thing here. We just don't know."