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Will Asking People To Text for Dolphins Work Post-Haiti?

Last night dolphins near Taijii, Japan, were oblivious to the break The Cove won an Oscar. The film’s hero, former Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry, has been trying to show Taijii’s dolphin slaughter to the world for years, even if it meant walking around with a TV on his chest. So, it’s no surprise he’d use the stage for the dolphins. O’Barry unfurled a banner saying “TEXT DOLPHIN TO 44144”.

What was the reaction? Twitter immediately ricocheted the message around thousands of time–and it’s still bouncing. This USAToday blogger says the sign–and its inherent naughtiness–got him to look up the film. But over at the Huffington Post, they ran a story explaining “What Happens if You Follow Ric Barry’s Sign?” The answer: you’re signed up for text message updates, up to 30 a month. Call me old-fashioned, but I subscribe to his blog, so that’s about 30 more than I need.

The Haiti earthquake taught the public that the easiest way you can donate money to a cause is by texting a charity. I doubt that causes can ask you to just text them anymore without people worrying how much it will cost. The various charities send you back a confirmation before your cellphone carrier sends off your money, Charity Navigator explains. If you haven’t done it, you won’t know that.

O’Barry wants you to write a letter to Obama. Taiji was, predictably, annoyed at the win. Controversy is swirling, the LA Times says. But what else does controversy do? Before the movie Japanese fishermen killed about 2,000 – 3,000 dolphins a year in Taijii and about 18,000 to 27,000 elsewhere, the Japan Times reports. The little town is also the last known place to catch wild orcas–and where fishermen ride them “rodeo style,” the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society reports. Japan claims it’s cultural imperialism to cringe at their killing of dolphins while we kill and eat cows.

The Cove has already pushed the town to halt the the dolphin slaughter for now. Expect more backlash when the film gets broader play in Japan. That’ll happen with or without your text messages.

See How You Can See Dolphins in the Wild

Excerpt from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society 2001 report Captive Orcas: Dying to Entertain You.

Japan: 1972 – to date. 28 orcas captured, of which 19 were taken into captivity (14
are now dead, 5 survive)

To date, no marine park outside Japan has purchased orcas taken from Japanese waters. Captures for dolphinariums have been largely unregulated, being carried out by inexperienced local fishermen using two main methods – harpooning, and herding the animals into a net. Capture methods can be very crude – attempts to wrestle the whales into submission by riding them ‘rodeo-style’ have been reported. 

Several orcas have died shortly after capture: for example, three orcas captured off Japan in 1979 had all died within three months of capture. The better Japanese marine parks, perhaps wary of
being tainted by association with ‘iruka no oikomi ryo’, the annual drive fishery responsible for the slaughter of thousands of small whales and dolphins, have increasingly turned to Iceland and North America for their orcas.

However, on February 7th, 1997, a group of ten orcas – believed to be transients – were taken at Hatajiri Bay, near Taiji, Wakayama prefecture. Fishermen from the Isana Fishing Co-operative first spotted the group of orcas, including two calves, about 50km off the Japanese coast. They sent eight fast boats out to encircle the pod and, by using water bombs and banging on iron rods to create a barrage of noise, succeeded in driving the group into the bay.

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