Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dolphins at the Fuji Rock Festival

By Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins Campaign
Earth Island Institute

Thousands of Japanese young people attending the Fuji Rock Festival in the mountains near Tokyo will learn about the plight of Japan’s dolphins, thanks to our Japanese friends.

You see, the young in Japan are the key to protecting dolphins and whales in the future. The new generation knows dolphins from TV and movies (including ironically, my “Flipper” TV show, which is still very popular in Japan), and they support a growing whale- and dolphin-watching tourism industry along the coast of Japan. Most do not even know that dolphins are being killed in Japan.

An estimated crowd of 120,000+ will attend the Fuji Rock Festival, July 30th, 31st and August 1st, with eight stages over several acres at a ski resort on the slopes of Mt. Fuji, featuring bands like Roxie Music, John Fogarty, Ken Yokoyama, Massive Attack, and a long list of other bands, large and small, Japanese and American. The largest stage can accommodate 40,000 people.

Our friends in Japan are organizing a Peace March in Taiji for the weekend of Sept. 4th, and, thanks to your support, they will have a booth at the Fuji Rock Festival and will be handing out 2,000 copies of the edited Cove DVD (the 15-minute subtitled version you can find on our home page at the bottom). They will also have thousands of leaflets to invite people to the Sept. Peace March to Taiji. Many of us will be joining that March as part of our stay in Taiji beginning on Sept. 1st, the start of the six-month dolphin hunt season.

For further information on the Fuji Rock Festival, go to the Festival website:

It has been very difficult for people in Japan to stand up publicly against the dolphin killing. Both the government and extreme Nationalist groups make taking a public stand an intimidating prospect. We are proud that we have friends in Japan who are willing to work with us to seek a solution to the dolphin hunts, once and for all. At the same time, they agree with us that our presence in Taiji in September will emphasize the positive alternatives for eco-tourism and dolphin-watching opportunities for visitors.

Your donations make our efforts to protect the dolphins and whales of Japan possible. We are making tremendous in-roads into Japan, thanks to your help. But we still have a long way to go. Please consider making a donation today.

And thank you, one and all, for all your help! We really appreciate it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010



Earth Island Institute and the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign are heading back to Taiji, Japan Wednesday Sept. 1st, 2010 to celebrate “Dolphin Day”.

September 1st marks the beginning of the annual six-month dolphin kill and Save Japan Dolphins Campaign Director Ric O’Barry has made a pledge to return to Taiji to keep our eyes on this tragic situation. Rather than protest, our goal is to deliver a positive message of support for the many good things that are possible in Taiji. We support efforts to develop sustainable eco-tourism for Taiji and the surrounding area. Eco-tourism provides jobs, and in many places around the world there is a growing recognition of the value and importance of living dolphins and whales offshore. Imagine if instead of allowing a small group of Taiji fisherman to continue the dolphin kill, Taiji residents took the public on dolphin and whale watching cruises.

Nantucket in America’s New England was once a whaling town, but now thrives as a vacation resort that attracts people from all over the US. We hope Taiji can find alternatives to end the annual drive hunts for dolphins and the sale of mercury-laden dolphin meat to the public.

So pack your bags! Taiji is beautiful at this time of year. Plan to spend some time in this coastal resort town and countryside. Bring your family and your friends to share this experience. There are plenty of opportunities for walking and hiking, boating, several historic temples and religious shrines nearby.


We have no specific plans for the day, except to show up and enjoy the National Park at the Cove. Bring a picnic lunch and expect to spend the day on the gravel beach. As emphasized above, there is no protest and we will avoid any confrontations.

We are also working on plans for a Peace March to be conducted over the historic pilgrims trail into Taiji. This is a very strenuous walk that will require advance preparation. More details will be available soon about this event.


Please contact us if you think you will be able to join us. We will try to assist with information on travel directions and options. Emails should be sent to mjrice@earthisland.org.

Also, if you know of anyone in Japan who you think should learn about our activities in Japan, please let us know!

There are many daily flights into the Japanese airports of Tokyo (Narita Airport) and Osaka. Tokyo is about 6-7 hours by train to Taiji. Osaka is about 5-6 hours by train to Taiji. You might want to arrive early in Japan for a few days before September. 1st to get over your jet lag and adjust to local time.

You can check train schedules here.

Maps of Japan and other tourist information here.

A Note of Caution:

We are gathering in Taiji to express support for the many people in Japan and throughout the world who want to see an end to the dolphin slaughter and trade. This will be a peaceful, quiet celebration of nature. We will be not be demonstrating or displaying signs of protest. It has been reported that Nationalist groups supporting a continuation of the dolphin kill will show up in Taiji on September 1st. They have been active against The Cove movie, intimidating theaters and film distributors. We do not intend any confrontation whatsoever. The Wakayama police have always acted in a professional manner and will be on hand.

We cannot be responsible for your travel, accommodations, or safety due to all of the unknown factors in this situation.

We look forward to your help and support for the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
The David Brower Center
2150 Allston Way, Suite 460
Berkeley, CA 94704



Richard O’Barry, Marine Mammal Specialist
(786) 973-8618 (cell)

David Phillips, Director
(415) 788-3666 x145


The Gulf oil spill caused by oil giant BP is now threatening captive marine mammals, including the orca Lolita, in the Miami Seaquarium of Florida.

Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that there was a “61%-80% chance” of the BP oil spill reaching the Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami by mid-August. Large clumps of weathered tar balls followed by oil-laden currents may be fast approaching, especially due to warmer winds, as a result of Hurricane Alex, among other storms.

Richard O’Barry, former dolphin and orca trainer turned marine mammal activist, and Earth Island Institute expressed deep concern about NOAA’s report, as the quickly advancing pollution may harm and even kill the dozens of captive marine creatures at the Miami Seaquarium.

O’Barry stated: “The spill is a disaster for wild dolphins and whales and now a real threat to captive ones as well.”

The Seaquarium, where O’Barry worked in the 1960’s, uses an open water system, which feeds directly from Biscayne Bay filling its numerous performing animal tanks, including that of Lolita the killer whale (orca). Opponents of captivity for marine mammals have called for Lolita’s retirement and release from her pool at the Seaquarium for years. Captured on August 8, 1970, from Penn Cove, Washington state, and sent down to Florida to perform tricks for tourists, Lolita has resided in what is the smallest and oldest orca tank in the United States. The tank is merely one-and-a-half-times her size, has garnered numerous safety violations, and does not meet US Department of Agriculture regulations.
O’Barry stated: “If the oil enters her pool through the Seaquarium’s aging filtration system from the Bay and makes contact with her sensitive skin, eyes, or enters her blowhole, it would be certain death to her and the other animals in the facility.”

Richard O’Barry, along with Earth Island Institute and many other environmental and animal welfare organizations, are formally requesting the Seaquarium to implement a rescue plan to retire a majority of their animals, including Lolita immediately.

Detailed plans have been in the works for a safe, privately funded retirement plan for Lolita since the 1990s. However, the Seaquarium has repeatedly refused to relinquish Lolita because she was a valuable asset to their park.

While the Seaquarium has already applied for a “3-5 million dollar” claim against BP to install a closed-filtration system, it is unlikely that any new system could be constructed in time for the eight large pools and tanks that would need a new filtration system. General manager Andrew Hertz realizes the situation at hand, telling JustNews Miami, "If I have damages, I've got dead animals that are irreplaceable. I need help on the front end to keep that from happening.”

While environmentalists are offering a humane, quick rescue for the Seaquarium’s animals, it is not clear that the Seaquarium will act in time to protect and save the marine mammals threatened by the approaching oil spill.

* * * * * *

Earth Island Institute works to conserve, protect and restore the Earth’s biological and cultural diversity.

The International Marine Mammal Project works to protect whales, dolphins, and their ocean habitats.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Cove Goes Public in Japan!

By Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

We did it. The Cove opened in several theaters in Japan last week! And while we are still under constant attack from extremist whose goal is to shut down theaters, the film actually sold out many showings.

A huge thank you to each one of you who helped us so much! There were countless times over the last year when I feared we’d never see the film open in Japan. It’s your support that made it possible. At almost every turn in this campaign we’ve come up against incredible obstacles, but you all got us through it. Many of you came forward - donating time, money and creative expertise. You shared your thoughts and spread the word. At absolutely every turn people not only did what they were asked, they went above and beyond.

We still have a lot to do, but together we have reached a major milestone, and I can’t thank you enough for getting us there.

My friend and a great friend of the dolphins, Louie Psihoyos, Director of The Cove, had this to say:

“Only in my wildest dreams did I believe The Cove would be screened in Japan. And I certainly never thought it would spark a nationwide debate over free speech.

“Now, the film is selling out theaters there and nearly everyone seems to know about it. I'm hopeful that once people in Japan see the movie they will understand that it is not just about saving dolphins but also humans, because all dolphin meat is toxic from what we humans are dumping into the oceans. This is not just a Japanese problem, but a worldwide problem. The bigger issue is that we are poisoning the oceans not only for the wild, but for ourselves and future generations.

“The biggest benefit of “The Cove” may be that it opened up doors for other points of view that could not be heard up until now. In that way, the film is already a great success. And for that, I can’t thank you enough. Every one of you has helped to make my dreams come true.”

My thanks go to Louie and the entire Cove Team who worked so hard for so long to get this film made and out to the public!

Read more about The Cove opening here, further proof that we are at last breaking through the blackout maintained by the news media for so many years in Japan.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

OLD NIC'S NOTEBOOK: A meeting of minds


Last month, dolphin-welfare campaigner Ric O'Barry visited me in the Nagano hills, where we discussed the Taiji dolphin cull and what's happening to marine mammals worldwide.

Photo: Slow deaths: When C.W. Nicol observed the Taiji dolphin cull, he was horrified to see dolphins speared randomly and left to die slowly. Here, two dolphins with spear wounds lie on the Taiji market floor, ready to be gutted before sale.

In 1958, just before my 18th birthday, I went along on an Inuit hunt for seals in the Canadian Arctic. That was the first time I tasted that rich, dark red — almost black — meat, and it was like nothing else I had eaten before. I loved it.

Photo Above: Nicol and dolphin-welfare campaigner Ric O'Barry talk about the welfare and future of marine mammals.

Gutted dolphins are lined up to be sold at Taiji fish market in this 1978 photo taken by C.W. Nicol.

Inuit hunters still used kayaks back then (and so did I) and I felt nothing but admiration for those men who went out into icy waters in such a flimsy craft, risking their lives to bring back food, fuel and the raw material for boots and clothing. In the many trips I have made to the Arctic since then, that feeling has never changed.

Then, in 1966, I first sailed aboard a whale-catcher, with a mixed Canadian and Japanese crew, hunting for sei and sperm whales off the west coast of Canada. Whale meat was on sale in pretty well every fish shop in Tokyo in the early 1960s when I first came to this country, so I had already come to appreciate its taste. Since then I have been on many marine mammal hunts — for seals, beluga, walrus and whales — and I retain enormous respect for the courage, skill and seamanship of those who take food from the sea.

That, however, is a stance that has made me unpopular with many anti-whaling folk around the world.

Nonetheless, in October 1978 I went to Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture to live in the town for a year and research the history and culture of Japanese whaling for a book I aimed to write — a book that turned out to be my novel, "Harpoon." The anti-whaling movement was beginning to display some nasty anti-Japanese tendencies just then, and I thought it might be mollified by some understanding, through my book, of the whalers' long background. As well, in some small way, I wanted to repay the friendship that Japanese whalers had shown me over the years.

Like many who have spent time at sea, I have a special feeling for dolphins, and would never think of trying to harm one. Anybody who has been on a ship, especially a sailing ship, and who has seen them race toward you to ride the bow waves must have felt a kind of elation and wonder. So, when the American television series "Flipper" was running during the 1960s, with a dolphin outsmarting the bad guys and invariably saving the day, I watched every episode I could, both awestruck and fascinated at the notion of people working and playing with those marvelous mammals of the sea.

As I sat glued to my black-and-white TV back then, though, I had no idea that the trainer of those dolphin stars, Richard "Ric" O'Barry, was to have something so tragic happen to him as to change his whole life. As he explained to me last month while we sat chatting in our Afan woods in the hills outside Kurohime, one of his dolphins swam into his arms, then deliberately stopped breathing and died. (Cetaceans do not breath involuntarily like us humans and most other mammals; they decide when and when not to breathe.) By not breathing, as Ric said, the desperate captive animal consciously committed suicide.

Since that terrible event more than three decades ago, Ric has devoted his life to the welfare and freedom of dolphins — making himself a lot of friends, and enemies, along the way.

It wasn't long after I arrived in Taiji in 1968 that I witnessed my first dolphin drive there, and it profoundly shocked and horrified me. Not that I was against the capture of dolphins for aquariums — I was a "Flipper" fan, right? As for killing them for food, well that was logically no different from taking seals or beluga.

What horrified me in Taiji was that the dolphins were not harpooned, and thus secured to be quickly dispatched. Instead, the hunters were simply throwing spears into a melee of the animals swimming in a small inlet they had sealed off from the sea, hitting them here and there. Then they'd retrieve the spear by hauling in a rope tied to it and hurl it again or use it close up to stab with. This was a far cry from the efficiency — and respect for life, and death — of an Inuit hunter or a whaler at sea.

That first time I witnessed the Taiji killings, I saw a dolphin take 25 minutes to die, while on another hunt I saw one that thrashed and bled for a horrible 45 minutes before it succumbed to its wounds. Killing, if justified and necessary, should surely be merciful and quick — yet I even saw an old grandmother laughing at a dolphin's death throes and pointing out the animal to the small child with her as if it was some kind of joke. That really hurt and shook my belief in people.

In addition to this catalog of horrors, though, as a former marine mammal research technician in Canada, it shocked me that all those dolphins were being captured and killed with no government inspector or fisheries biologist on hand to take data and monitor the kill. I protested about what was going on to the fishermen, and to Town Hall officials in Taiji. I even went to Tokyo and protested to a senior official in the Fisheries Agency, but he just sneered and said, "What does it matter, they die anyway."

I have written and spoken about this many, many times and a few years ago I personally warned the governor of Wakayama Prefecture that the world was now very aware of this dolphin hunt and the cruel way it is carried out. Surely, I argued, something at least should be done to monitor the number of dolphins taken and the methods of the kill. The only reaction was to try to shield everything from sight by closing off public footpaths and putting up those ugly blue sheets used all over Japan to shroud construction sites and crimes scenes.

Now we have the 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary "The Cove," in which Ric stars. In Japan, many right-wingers and nationalists are in a furor over the film, and they are doing their best to stop it being shown in this country. However, as the old Japanese saying goes, "You cannot keep the lid on a smelly pot."

The debate must be brought into the open, and preferably by people who have witnessed what's going on, felt their own reactions and thought about whether or not it is right to use marine mammals for human food. It's also necessary to consider the cruelty involved — and how cruelty can change the way a person views the world. For me, the old Japanese justifications citing tradition and culture don't cut much ice when the tradition involved is inhumane — like burning eccentric old ladies at the stake or binding up young girls' feet.

The other great question on my mind is whether the meat of dolphins, whales and large, older sea creatures is so badly polluted as to be toxic for human consumption.

When Ric came to spend a day with me at my home in Kurohime, we talked quietly for several hours about all these and other issues. We found that we agreed about most things, most emphatically about cruelty, but, understandably, he does not want to see any cetaceans killed or captured or harmed in any way, while I still tend to support traditional hunting. Whatever, the most important thing is that we could talk to each other; we could debate without rancor and seek a middle ground. Indeed, I am confident we have begun a friendship, and that Ric — who has been betrayed and deceived all too many times over the years of his campaigning — could truly trust me.

Ric feels no animosity toward the people of Taiji and sincerely wants to help the town to prosper without those awful dolphin drive hunts. Indeed, our talks in Kurohime — which were taped for the record — ranged all over the topics of marine mammals and humans, as we together tried to seek a fitting future for us all on this planet.

Despite all our talk of history, tradition, culture and the need for humans to take food from the sea, though, the one deadly nail that consistently stood out above the rest was the question of pollution. If cetacean meat, and especially the meat and blubber of dolphins taken off the coasts of Japan, is as seriously contaminated with mercury and other harmful chemicals as the evidence indicates, then surely the Japanese government must address this issue and bring it out into the open — either banning sales altogether or insisting on warning labels, depending on the degree of danger to humans.

As for me, having talked to Ric and read his book To Free a Dolphin, I am convinced enough to never watch a captive dolphin show again, and I will also avoid aquariums where they are kept. If I want to see dolphins I shall go to sea.

My old dad, James Nelson Nicol, who served many years in the Royal Navy, once said to me: "They talk about 'the seven seas,' but I think that's wrong. There is only one sea. They all join up."

Indeed, and so do all our futures.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Cove Opens Tomorrow, but the Extremists Are Not Giving Up

by Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins
Earth Island Institute

Last week we had some important successes in Japan -- several theater owners came forward and committed to show The Cove movie despite threats from extreme nationalists, and we also won a key injunction in a Yokohama court against the group protesting the film – an almost unheard of injunction.

Unfortunately, the extremists are again ramping up, employing their worst tactics to date.

This week they moved to the Yokohama theater owner’s home, and when that didn’t work, they moved on to his mother’s home:

As you can see from the video, the woman is elderly. She has nothing to do with the distribution of the film. This harassment with loud speakers outside her home is intimidation of the lowest order.

We have repeatedly tried to engage our critics –- inviting them to participate in open forums, but they refused. Rather than discuss the issues they employ highly aggressive bullying tactics to shut down the film. I personally believe they are being paid to protest and don’t really have a point of view. I don’t even think they care about Taiji. Their only goal is to keep people from knowing the truth, no matter what it takes. As we know, corruption is endemic on this issue, with many people making money off trafficking in live dolphins for oceanariums and selling poisoned dolphin and whale meat on the open market with no health warnings to protect the people of Japan.

To this end it is clear the extreme nationalists - and whoever is funding them - aren’t giving up, and our Japanese distributor is small with a very limited budget. Earth Island has been helping with promotion and security, but much more will be needed if we want to expand beyond these six theaters. We have 17 theaters on hold right now that want to screen the film, but are fearful of the consequences.

Can you help by making a donation today? Your donation will help us reach out to the Japanese people and the Japanese media to show the truth about the dolphin slaughter:

Click Here to Donate

We will get The Cove screened wherever and whenever we can. I’ll be returning soon to Japan along with the Save Japan Dolphins Team who are in Japan now or will be coming back with me. And we won’t give up until we end the slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

Please help us Save Japan Dolphins:

Click Here to Donate

Thank you all for your continuing support for saving the dolphins!