About 30 years ago, 'Captain' Paul Watson of the famed Whale Wars TV show on Animal Planet was battling to save the whales off the western coast of Australia. Australia became the first nation to ban whaling and has been a leader in ocean conservation ever since.

Now the small coastal town of Broome in western Australia has become the fulcrum of an international campaign to end dolphin hunting.

Broome, a popular eco-tourism destination, boasts some of the best whale and dolphin watching in the world. It is also the sister city of Taiji which, as a result of new film The Cove, is know widely referred to as "the Auschwitz for dolphins."

Broome and Taiji have deep historical ties. The pearling industry in Broome was developed with the help of Taiji divers, many of whom have descendants living in the Australian shire.

So it was a difficult decision when the shire of Broome annulled its sister city relationship with Taiji. Mayor Campbell explains:

It's a very sad day for Broome, given the historical and cultural contribution made by many people from Japan to the town, and the number of people living here who still have relatives in Taiji.
But it was a decision they had to make. Thousands of emails poured in from around the world urging (and threatening) the shire of Broome to cut its ties with Taiji. As the film documents, police and government officials in Taiji are complicitous in what should be an international crime —the entrapment and mass slaughter of tens of thousands of dolphins every year.

Not exactly an association you want if you are a marine tourism destination.

Jeff Hansen, the Australian director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has focused his attention on Broome. The film had its "world premiere" in Broome, knowing full well the political leverage that a sister-city relationship brings to the table.

As he stated, "This could just be the catalyst that shuts this unjustified, barbaric and inhumane practice down for good."

By ending its long-standing ties with Taiji, the shire of Broome has spoken in a symbolic language that the Japanese government will not be able to lightly dismiss.

Though the slaughter continues, Japan's dark secret is no more. The whole world is now watching.

NOTE: Broome has experienced some backlash from its monumental decision to cut its ties with Taiji. Paul Watson urges residents to honor and respect Broome's Japanese residents. Here's an excerpt posted Thursday from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society:
The Japanese people of Broome helped shape this northwest Australian town for what it is today and should be admired and respected. To treat people of Broome of Japanese descent with any less respect is an outrage, disrespectful, and quite frankly uncivilized. Some people in Broome have even gone as far as to interfere with the graves in the Japanese cemetery. These people belong back in the Dark Ages.
While Broome still believes its decision was the right one and hopes there may be some impact on current practices in Taiji, there is a section of the community (people with Japanese ancestry) who now need to hear from everyday Australians that they are valued, respected and admired. They need to hear that message as loudly as they have heard the cry from us to sever those historic ties.
Sea Shepherd is asking to please write positive and reaffirming emails to the community of Broome, that Broome citizens of Japanese heritage are equally respected and admired as part of the community in helping to shape one of Australia’s premier iconic coastal towns.
Councilor Chris Maher is happy to take those emails and can be reached at chris@arthousebroome.com.
Alternatively you can write a letter to the editor of the Broome Advertiser by emailing news@broomead.com.au
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society condemns the outlash directed at the Japanese community of Broome. This issue has nothing to do with race; what is happening to the dolphins in Taiji is an issue that affects us all on a global scale.

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