This year marks the fourteenth consecutive year that Dolphin Project has been on the ground in Taiji, Japan and an international team of volunteers will keep watch over Taiji Cove during the annual dolphin drive hunt. The hunt begins on September 1st annually and spans until March of the following year. During those months, over a thousand dolphins are driven into the cove, where they’re brutally slaughtered for their meat. Simultaneously, some dolphins are allowed to live, but the fate of the “survivors” hardly better: they’re sentenced to a life of captivity in marine parks. Luckily, the first day of this year’s hunt was a “blue cove day,” a day where no cetaceans were killed. Among the Cove Monitors was one young activist who had a separate mission.
Seven-year-old Imogen is the youngest Cove Monitor, but this is her third year volunteering alongside her mother, Veteran Dolphin Project Cove Monitor, Vicki Kiely. In addition to the vigilant task of keeping watch over the cove during the slaughter, Imogen arrived in Japan with a plan to meet with the person she believed could help put an end to the slaughter: Mayor Kazutaka Sangen, of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture. She planned to deliver letters from her classmates that expressed their concern for all the dolphins affected by the actions of fishermen. The team of Imogen, her mother, and Daniela Moreno was escorted to the mayor’s office, where they were told that they would be granted a five-minute meeting with the mayor. But, after Mayor Sangen welcomed Imogen into his office, the five minutes turned into a 20-minute meeting.
According to Imogen’s mother and Veteran Dolphin Project Cove Monitor Vicki Kiely, who had accompanied her to the mayor’s office, “He was very welcoming and smiled at Imogen, holding our hands and greeting us. The mayor then read the letter with the help of a translator. He was listening when he heard Imogen’s words, stating it was ‘mean and wrong’ to kill dolphins.”
Along with her letter, she delivered letters from her classmates, who came up with ideas of how Taiji could make money without hurting dolphins. “I told him he should tell the hunters to use the boats to watch dolphins and make people pay money to go on the boats,” Imogen said.
According to Vicki Kiely, “I could not be more proud of my daughter, and her will and determination to change this world for the better.”
The mayor took his time to listen to the words of Imogen and her classmates, then explained to her that because the Japanese government permits the dolphin slaughter, there was nothing he could do to put a stop to it. He did, however, give Imogen a presentation on his plan to help conserve the dolphin population in the cove, which would involve releasing captive-bred dolphins back into the waters. At the end of their meeting, he asked Imogen how old she was and was surprised to hear that she was an activist at such a young age. He said that she would grow up to be a movie star, but if you ask us, we hope she continues on the track of being an amazing and badass advocate for cetaceans.
To learn more about Dolphin Project and to keep up-to-date on the latest news from Taiji, visit their official website.
Editor’s Note 9/2/2016: A previous version of this article erroneously implied Imogen was associated with Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians, it has since been clarified.
All image source: Dolphin Project