For the second year in a row, the International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) of Earth Island Institute supported the volunteer program Fukushima Kids Dolphin Camp held in Japan this past August.
The camp is the brainchild of several parents raising kids in areas contaminated by the fallout of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Hit by an earthquake and massive tsunami in March 2011, several of the nuclear power plant’s containment structures were severely damaged, leading to partial meltdowns of the reactor cores, with some radiation released into the atmosphere and continued radiation leaks into the ocean.
The kids in the Fukushima Kids Dolphin Camp live in restricted conditions. For example, in order to go outside and play, they must put on special shoe coverings. Their view of nature is sadly constricted by the disaster.
So, every summer, the volunteers with the Fukushima Kids Dolphin Camp raise funds to bring a number of children to the islands south of Tokyo, where the kids can roam free and enjoy a few days in nature without restraints.
The highlight of the trip is the chance to go snorkeling with a pod of friendly bottlenose dolphins. The people of the local Mikura Island, an overnight ferry ride from Tokyo, have made friends with these dolphins. The local fishermen protect them, and they have been given names. Swimming with wild dolphins is a great way to get to know and appreciate these remarkable animals.
Tetsuo Nakahara, one of the volunteer coordinators of the Camp, told me, “This is our third year of dolphin camp. This camp offers an amazing opportunity for kids in Fukushima to learn about the environment, take courage, and develop good friendships. The situation in Fukushima is still very difficult for children to play outside considering radiation from Fukushima nuclear power plant.”
“So, this camp, which includes staying on the island and swimming with wild dolphins, is like a dream camp for children in Fukushima,” Tetsuo continued. “Everybody was able to swim with wild dolphins during the camp. They saw how graceful these ocean friends are.”
This year, the Camp included 12 children, from ages 6 to 11 years old. Tetsuo told me there was a bit of concern among the children at the depth of the water they were swimming in, but that they all got to see the graceful dolphins underwater.
IMMP is pleased to continue our support for the Camp, bringing nature and wild dolphins into the lives of young Japanese children.
Tetsuo says: “The smile all the children showed after the dolphin swimming is just a priceless experience.”
A big thank you to all our donors who helped IMMP support the 2016 Fukushima Kids Dolphin Camp!