By Heather Hill
We checked the weather report before going to sleep last night and saw a marine warning had been posted due to an incoming thunderstorm. We thought today would be an easy day.
Despite the warning, eleven banger boats headed out of the harbor this morning, one by one, in a single file line. There was a thick layer of fog hanging low on the horizon, and we quickly lost sight of the them. We anxiously scanned back and forth, hoping they would come back empty handed. We didn’t have to wait long. The next time the boats appeared they were in a drive formation and black smoke filled the air.
By the time we’d hiked up Takababe Hill, above the Cove, we expected the boats to be nearing the mouth of the harbor, but they were still quite a ways offshore. The small pod of eight Risso’s dolphins were putting up a good fight, making it hard for the fishermen to track them. They would all surfaced together, take a few breaths, and disappear again for several minutes at a time. This must have been terribly frustrating for the fishermen. With each sighting they were able to drive the pod a bit closer, but each time the dolphins dove the boats had to fan out and wait. This went on for more than an hour. At one point the dolphins surfaced behind the boats, and we thought they might actually escape. Once again black smoke filled the air as the diesel engines fired up, and the fishermen were able to cut the pod off. The chase was an emotional roller coaster of extreme highs and lows for those of us on land, and I can’t even imagine the stress and terror the dolphins must have been experiencing.
Our hearts broke as we helplessly watched the frightened dolphins swim into the Cove, and a small skiff pull the first net across the entrance. The dolphins would have no more chances of escape. During the last slaughter we were able to watch Risso’s for about ten minutes before they were driven under the tarps. Today, the fishermen quickly pushed the eight dolphins further and further into the killing Cove and out of our sight.
Looking down through the trees we saw the nets being taken down and assumed the killing was over. After reviewing video footage we discovered that at least one dolphin was still alive and thrashing around in the shallow water. The dolphin killers must have had them restrained or injured to the point that they were no longer concerned about them swimming out of the Cove in a last ditch effort to survive.
Eight precious lives were lost, and countless tears were shed around the world today because of the actions of one small group of fishermen. As we wept, these fishermen laughed. I will never understand the lack of value some people can place on a life.