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Activists protest the start of the annual Taiji, Japan dolphin hunt

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In the heart of Canada’s financial district at King and Bay, surrounded by multi-story office buildings that blocked out most of the sun, more than 50 people stood in a row on the sidewalk outside the Toronto-Dominion Centre, holding up their banners and signs.

But the men, women and children hadn't come to protest against any of the Big Five banks or blue chip corporations.

Instead, they marked the 2012 Japan Dolphins Day, an event to raise awareness about the plight of dolphins in Taiji, by handing out Japan Dolphins Day pamphlets and copies of the The Cove to pedestrians in front of the office of the Consulate-General of Japan at 77 King Street West in Toronto.

The Cove, an award winning documentary, followed a team of activists and filmmakers in 2009 as they revealed “a remote and hidden cove in Taiji, Japan, shining a light on a dark and deadly secret.”

Every year, beginning on September 1, the dolphin hunt begins in Taiji, Japan. Most dolphins are hunted for their meat, some are released and others are captured, eventually ending up in dolphinariums.

The Japanese town of Taiji on the Kii peninsula is the only town in Japan where drive hunting still takes place on a large scale.

“Taiji receives permits to kill almost 2,100 dolphins each year in the most horrible ways imaginable”, said SaveJapanDolphins.org, a campaign conducted by the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute.

SaveJapanDolphins.org was formed to put an end to the Japanese drive fishery slaughter of dolphins and stop the capture and live trade of dolphins to zoos and aquariums around the world.

“Ocean dwelling animals do not belong in tanks, said one Toronto protester. “But as long as the captivity industry exists, these hunts will continue.”

The public can help save Japan’s dolphins by signing an online petition here.

Adrian Hey came out to Friday’s protest because she’s worried about what kind of a world she’ll leave for her grandchildren if “everything is fished out of the ocean and killed in the slaughter” over the next 20 years.

“So that’s why I’m here,” said Hey, who travelled from London, Ontario to attend the protest. 

“I gotta put my body where my mouth is.”

Last year, protests were held in less than 50 countries; this year in over 100 countries worldwide.

“We strongly believe in ocean conservation,” said Shari, who attended Friday’s demonstration with her daughter and husband.

“And dolphin hunting is very concerning to us. We don’t feel it’s the right thing to do. And we’re here to voice our displeasure.”

On a recent trip to Hawaii, Shari said she witnessed a marlin being pulled up in a marina. 

While everyone else was oohing and aahing and extolling the beauty of this fish, she couldn’t help thinking that the marlin was more beautiful two hours earlier when it was still free and alive in the ocean.

From that moment forward, she decided that she’d no longer be silent in the face of such atrocities.

“I think it’s very bad,” said Faith, her nine-year-old daughter. “We should speak up and let the people know we should be better than we are today.”

Further down the line stood Robyn, holding a sign that read “Stop the Dolphin Slaughter in Japan”, voicing her opposition to the annual slaughter that usually lasts about six months.

“They’re not ours to touch,” said Robyn. “They should be able to swim freely in the oceans where they belong.”

But the Taiji dolphin hunts generate enormous sums of money for fishermen, who sell some of their catch to the captive dolphin industry.

The practice of dolphin drive hunting has a long history, dating back hundreds if not thousands of years.

Government officials consider the dolphins to be pests that eat and deplete the fish stocks around Taiji. 

Worldwide, hunters kill more than 20,000 dolphins a year.

After Rachel Larivee watched The Cove in 2009, she started educating people about the dolphin slaughter. 

A year later, she boarded an airplane for the first time in her life and travelled to Taiji where she attended a rally with Earth Island Institute against the dolphin slaughter at an embassy in Tokyo. 

Along with five of her colleagues, Larivee caught a train bound from Tokyo to Taiji.

“But it was quiet,” she said, after arriving in Taiji. “There was nothing going on.”

That year, fishermen decided to wait until the middle of September to start their hunt. 

With protesters out of the way, the hunters thought they’d be free from any kind of interference or dissent.

After last year's successful live broadcasts from Taiji, Japan, Ric O'Barry and his team from Save Japan Dolphins and Dolphin Project will report live beginning September 1.

DigitalJournal.com reported that The Director of Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project, will join representatives from five continents at the Cove in Taiji, Japan, to conduct a series of events to mark the beginning of the dolphin slaughter season in Taiji.

“They’re live streaming their event in Taiji at the killing Cove today,” said Larivee, wearing a painted blue dolphin on her right cheek and a red heart on her left.

“The key is educating in a peaceful way. We’re not anti-Japan. We’re not boycott Japan. We just want the slaughter to end.”

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