By JORDAN IKEDA
RAFU STAFF WRITER
Nearly 100 people demonstrated Thursday outside the Japanese Consulate in downtown Los Angeles as part of a worldwide protest called International Save Japan Dolphins Day. Protesters gathered in front of embassies and consulates of the Government of Japan from Atlanta to Ottawa to Paris to Nigeria.
“We’re just trying to expose the public to the atrocities going on in Taiji because I don’t think most people are aware of this,” said Bryan Monell who is the senior investigator for Last Chance for Animals and who visited the small fishing village of Taiji a couple of years ago during the city’s annual dolphin hunt that is currently taking place.
“We first went to Osaka, and then Tokyo,” Monell said, “and most people we talked to had never heard of this. When we told them about it, they were incredulous that this was even going on in their country.”
As a means of being heard, protesters chanted “save Japan’s dolphins” while holding up a variety of signs with pictures of the marine mammals, both living and slain. Monell was also responsible for providing blue plastic inflatable dolphins covered in blood. As a precaution, security guards kept protesters outside the downtown high-rise housing the consulate.
“I’ve had experience with squid and octopus being eaten, but I had no idea that Flipper was being used for dinner,” said Jeramie Jouvier, a green environmentalist, who saw the demonstration while on his lunch break and decided to join in the cause.
While the practice of whaling has been going on in Japan since the 16th century, this year’s protest drew a much larger crowd from the previous year thanks to a greater awareness brought about by the 2009 Academy Award-winning film “The Cove.”
According to the movie, 2,300 dolphins are annually steered into a hidden cove in Taiji, where the choicest specimens are captured and sold for $150,000 to various marine theme parks around the world. The rest of the dolphins are speared by fishermen leaving the entire cove saturated in blood.
This technique, called amitori-shiki, was invented in Taiji in the 17th century. However this year, Taiji fishermen have been setting some of the captured dolphins free and have refrained from killing any bottlenose dolphins, the same species used in the 1960s U.S. TV show “Flipper.”
The film’s associate producer, Charles Hambleton, was among the local organizers on hand Thursday. Hambleton said marine attractions in the U.S. contribute to the problem by creating a market for captive dolphins.
A statement released by the Japanese consulate read: “The most important thing is to recognize … national and cultural differences and to have a mutual understanding of each other.”