Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Cove

Already discussed in the Fish Fight blog, this was intended to be our cheery Christmas movie, but the snow got in the way and we lost too much time! (I blame global warming - sorry - Global Climate Change). This movie is now in the Library and especially if you are doing Environmental Science as well as geography, this should be a key film to watch.

Written and produced by the man who trained the original Flipper Dolphins, Ric O'Barry, whose aim is to expose the brutal killing of thousands of Dolphins in a Cove in Japan each year. The Dolphins are driven into a closed of cove, the best quality females are trapped and taken for training in dolphin sanctuary's and facilities across the world.

Whale Hunting is a part of Japanese culture, and the discussions surrounding the issue are well covered online, however, the slaughter of Dolphins depicted in the movie is shocking and it seems unnecessary. Dolphin meat contains high levels of mercury (Dolphins are apex predators and hence bio-accumulate mercury), it is donated to the school system, and few ocean populations can survive such significant hunts year after year. The Killing method in particular is brutal, and there are few reasons as to why the dolphins not captured are not just released instead of killed.

The movie is designed to stimulate its watchers into action, and it does so very effectively, there is some controversy around the information used and the people portrayed in the film, you can read about the reported controversy at wikipedia.

So why is this a good geography movie? It covers some key themes from the development module, the demand for holidays where you can swim with dolphins, visit theme parks with dolphin and whale displays etc is a product of both development, Westernisation and Globalisation, it is a high end holiday, a mark of being a developed nation with big tourist drawing power.

The trade in these dolphins is made possible through the spread of media, the Internet. exporting TV shows like Flipper, and the advent of cheap flights to where these facilities are. I am by no means saying that all dolphins in captivity have been selected in this manner, and certainly not advocating we release all cetaceans back into the wild, conservation through captivity is an important part of preserving our marine heritage, but this film does so accurately depict that the side effects to rapid development and significant economic gain are that some of the more humanitarian and environmental issues are readily overlooked when there is a market. The slaughter of dolphins can be done more humanely, those not wanted can be released. Japan is a developed nation, they do not need to rely on Dolphin meat to feed their population so why continue with such an aggressive capture and kill programme?

There is a positive to be drawn here that does relate to your geography studies, we are now in a position to bring issues like these to the forefront of global media, a positive to globalisation is that it is far easier now than ever before to expose practices like this and to effect change through social pressure. There are a number of websites that allow you to show your support, any one from any country in the world with access to the Internet can get involved (http://www.thecovemovie.com/ ), Westerners can access areas of the world like Taiji for research and protest purposes, the need for countries to maintain an eco-friendly public image is increasing by the day and using popular media like film to expose issues is becoming a powerful tool (see also "An Inconvenient Truth", "The 11th Hour", "The age of Stupid", "Sicko" etc).

So the Library staff emailed me on Monday to let me know we now have a copy, I will try and set up a viewing in a classroom on a timetable collapse day, but it is difficult, so check it out of the LRC, watch it and let me know what you think by posting a comment below!


  1. It is quiet sad to hear abt that.Japanese crazyness abt the fresh dolplin is like chinese toward sharp fin.More economically,if a fishment catch a dolplin, they can earn quiet lot of money that they don't have to work for the following half year.What can we do to save those?Recently,there is a trend that the traditional dish sharp fin soup for the wedding is replaced by other.Tranditonal is just people use to it,it can be changed.

  2. You are right,the trade in shark fins for soup is equally horrifying and was well covered in Gordon Ramseys "Sharkbait" documentary a couple of weeks ago, the show is still on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS775jXFlgA&list=SL) with some awful footage of the finning of a Hammerhead shark that is then thrown back alive with no fins to drown. The movie "Sharkwater" by Rob Stewart is similar, both are quite graphic. It is encouraging there is a trend towards alternatives to shark fin soup, more needs to be done to raise this issue in public and how wasteful the practice is, you are right Phoebe, there are very few reasons why damaging traditions in any culture could not be adapted to reduce the potential harm to such amazing species.