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Inside ‘The Cove’

Katherine Greenspon | Friday, April 16, 2010

Good documentaries are known for having great footage and exclusive interviews, but one documentary in particular has single-handedly redefined what it means to document. The American documentary “The Cove” is a powerful message to the world about what occurs behind closed doors, or in this film’s case, coves.

This 92-minute film captures raw footage of the brutal slaughtering techniques Japanese fishermen have been practicing for years on dolphins for marine parks globally and the illegal selling of their meat in local fish markets across the small town of Taiji.

“The Cove” is more a thriller than a documentary, as director and National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos explores and uncovers the dirty secrets the Japanese government has spent so much money to hide. Psihoyos co-founded the non-profit organization Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) that helps protect and bring awareness to the earth’s oceans so they can be appreciated instead of diminished.

After meeting Mr. Richard O’ Barry, who is best known for his dolphin training skills in the 1960s, Psihoyos formulated a dream team of scientists, world renowned free divers, set builders and a key player in it all, Mr. O’ Barry himself. O’Barry dedicated most of his life to dolphins, training them for the very popular television series, “Flipper.” O’Barry captured all five dolphins for the TV series but when one of his dolphins died in his own arms he took a radical move from training dolphins in captivity to advocating against it.

This documentary follows a group of environmentalists to the small Japanese fishing town of Taiji where a huge secret lives. Amongst all of the friendly fishing boats and crowded fish markets, a brutal killing of dolphins was taking place, unnoticed and unknown by every whaling committee and marine advocacy organization.

Every September through March, Taiji fishermen would cast their nets and throw their spears at innocent and helpless dolphins for purchase from marine parks across the world. If they were caught alive they would be sold for up to $150,000. If found dead, their meat would illegally be sold in fish markets for $600.

Disturbing footage in the film revealed Japan’s colossal power over fish markets, where a lucrative portion of them was dedicated to the buying and selling of dolphin flesh, highly poisonous in mercury. This meat would be sold in disguise as the leading whale meat which Japanese townspeople would purchase and unknowingly eat, poisoning themselves and their children.

The Japanese government did such a good job protecting the secrets of the cove that many of the local Japanese townspeople were not even aware what was happening to the dolphins. Concealing the cove were tunnels and barbed wire fences that were strategically placed so outsiders would never be able to enter and discover what was happening.
Students who watched the documentary were mortified and stunned that something like this was not deserving of more attention and exposure to the public.

“I was near tears watching the dolphins flee for their lives and felt compelled to join the fight against inhuman dolphin slaughter,” sophomore Caitlin Condon said.
Sophomore Megan Reardon said, “After watching I could not believe what the Japanese fishermen were getting away with. It was absolutely disgusting and something needs to be done to stop it.”

“Aside from ‘Finding Nemo’ no other film about sea life has changed my life more than ‘The Cove,'” junior Matt Coyne said.

A genius idea from Psihoyos allowed him to capture the destruction that was being hidden at the cove. By implementing an all-night operation to plant cameras around the cove and under the water, he and his crew were able to capture everything on tape so both governments and whaling committees worldwide would see the brutal killings of the dolphins in the cove.

A successful operation lay in the westerner’s hands as O’Barry visited government meetings and exposed what was happening. Once Psihoyos and O’Barry’s team had evidence, the exposure of the slaughtering became highly publicized. Through this suspenseful and educational documentary more people will become aware of what is happening and be motivated to do something about it.

Contact Katherine Greenspon at kgreen01@saintmarys.edu