February 23, 2011

Happy Wed. -22 here and not particularly clear. Piles of snow everywhere.

Over the weekend we watched a couple of movies. One was “The Cove,” about the slaughter of dolphins in Taijiki, Japan. The filmmakers assembled a team of activists with diverse skills, including a couple of free divers, to sneak into the killing cove and film the goings-on. The ring-leader was Rick O’Barry, who starred in the TV series Flipper. He was Flipper’s trainer for several years and says he got to know dolphin behavior pretty well. The success of Flipper on TV led to a rapid increase in the number of for-profit theme parks like Marine World using trained dolphins to attract paying spectators. The dolphins are captured, naturally, and now sell for upwards of $150,000 each, making dolphin napping a lucrative enterprise. But they don’t stop there. They herd dolphins into coves with nets, select the most likely dolphin acrobats, then slaughter the rest to sell for meat on the huge Japanese fish market. An estimated 23,000 dolphins are killed each year in Japan, which has made it a point of national pride to violate world fishing laws, devastating the Blue Fin Tuna and whales and sharks generally.

One problem with eating dolphin meat is that ocean going carnivores concentrate mercury from smog that falls into the ocean, is ingested by small critters, who are then ingested in great numbers by larger critters, and so up the food chain until eating dolphin meat is bad for your health. Japan has poignant experience with mercury poisoning, since its industry in the 60s (I think that’s right) dumped mercury and other toxins untreated into the ocean, which led to a sharp increase in serious birth defects. Anyway, the movie is sort of an environmental Oceans 11, as assorted experts, including George Lucas’s special effects outfit in San Rafael, CA, are recruited to design and help sneak the cameras into Japan, then plant them at the guarded cove. They succeeded and the views of the dolphin slaughter are gross and outrageous. The film is informative and entertaining, and is well worth watching. When it was released a few years ago, it won a number of awards, but the Japanese government would not permit it to be shown in Japan. I don’t know how long that position was viable, but the slaughter goes on. Available from Netflix.

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