Unknown Publisher, written by Kay McGrath.
On a small Japanese island, mass murder is committed daily. Dolphins those gentle sea mammals are battered to death by fisherman. About 1500 dolphins have fallen victim to the bloody round-ups. Iki island fishermen claim the “gangsters of the sea” as they call them, rob them of their liveliness. Environmentalists worldwide are fighting back one American Man who cut a net to free some of the trapped animals faces 3 years jail.
But Sea World dolphin trainer, Howard Kodra says the environmentalists are wasting their time. Kodra is the director of shows and marine mammal training at Sea World on the Southport Spit he has worked in various marine parks throughout the world.
He claims to have a solution to the Iki island problem and is appealing for Australian Support to save the dolphins.
He realises the Japanese fisherman are losing their way of life. He even concedes that slaughtering the dolphins is the only solution they can see. But there is he believes a way out.
Early next week he will put a proposition to the Japanese Government. One he feels will keep everyone happy, even the dolphins. He intends to take a team of highly qualified dolphin trainers to Iki Island to work with fisherman. “If we can go out on the fishing vessels and study the problem at close quarters, I’m almost certain we can come up with a practical solution” he says. And his answer is bold – To let the dolphins and the fisherman work side by side.
“It’s no good sitting on the beach; we need to go out on the boats and actually see what the dolphins are doing’ he says. Kodra reasons that if both the dolphins and the islanders want the fish, they ought to work alongside each other.
“Dolphins can be trained to do practically anything you can imagine, even distinguishing between different types of fish” he says. Kodra believes he can train dolphins to spot schools of fish and even herd them into the fishing nets.
“There have been cases recorders in Australia of dolphins chasing fish into shallow water areas for netting” he says. “I see no reason why this can’t be done in Japan”.
The Japanese fishermen don’t take kindly to schools of dolphins raiding ‘their’ territory. They round up dolphins slaughter them and use the carcasses as garden fertiliser.
Kodra admits the fishermen are dealing with the situation in the only way they know. “They need assistance, and that’s what I’m offering” he says.
At Sea World, his first step in training dolphins is to teach them to eat dead fish. Even though there are plenty of live fish in the pools, the dolphins know all they have to do is perform a simple trick and they’ll be hand fed.
“We need a situation in Japan where the dolphins are out with the boats and not interfering. If we quickly reward them, it wouldn’t take long for them to learn,” he explained.
“Dolphins are just like human beings, if they can they’ll let others do their work for them.
“It wouldn’t be long before the dolphins learned that every morning when the boats went out, they’d be fed.” Thousands of dolphins raid the fishing grounds off Iki Island, but only handful need training.
“Each herd of dolphins has a few natural leaders, the others simply follow their example” says Kodra. There are several ways of training dolphins. One of the most commonly used and most effective methods is underwater sound cues.
But Kodra doesn’t know exactly how he will tackle the Japanese problem. “Each situation dictates a different approach” he points out. “Unless we can see the problem at first hand, it’s almost impossible to say how we’d train them. “Thirty years ago we were completely ignorant about dolphins; we didn’t know the head from the tail.
“Marine land in Florida captured the first dolphin but they didn’t have a clue what to do with it. “They quickly discovered it was a highly intelligent animal, and since then we’ve collected screeds of valuable information about their capabilities”.
Kodra stresses the need for immediate action. He says there is no time left for argument; that this particular species of dolphin could well become extinct. “We need to take action now because we are disturbing the natural balance of the dolphins in the same way as we’ve disturbed the balance of other animals which have become extinct” he warns.
Kodra says it has been proven in the past that solutions can be found. A few years ago, the United States tuna industry worked with marine officials to study the problem of dolphins raiding the nets. Each time the tuna vessels dropped their nets, they would trap vast numbers of dolphins. “These nets were 100m deep, and there was no way the dolphins could escape,” says Kodra.
“The scientists developed a drop net system which allowed the animals to swim out. The dolphins knew if they became trapped, all they had to do was wait until the fisherman drop the net and then swim to safety. “This is a typical case of man and dolphin working together”.
Kodra desperately wants to stop the mass slaughter on Iki Island, but he sympathises with the Japanese fisherman. “We’re hollering at the Japanese, but until a few years ago the United States had a legal death quota of 68,000 dolphins” he says.
“The Japanese are a bit blunter about it, but the Americans have probably killed more of the animals. Until recently, it was legal to kill a dolphin a day in South Australia for bait.”
If the Japanese government is not prepared to subsidise the Save the Dolphin project, Kodra may be forced to abandon the scheme for lack of funds. He is appealing to the Australians for support. The dolphins, he says quietly, deserve a chance.