It’s hard to believe 2017 is coming to a close, yet I have never felt more positive about the progress we’ve made for dolphins as I do now. We’ve gained tremendous momentum worldwide as people across the globe are realizing that dolphins do not belong in captivity, nor should they be hunted, abused or slaughtered. The three most difficult places on Earth to work on behalf of dolphins are Japan, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands – in fact, we are the only organization on the ground in those places and will remain there as long as dolphins are in need.
2017 yielded historic progress in the movement to end captivity for entertainment. Dolphin Project supported numerous efforts that contributed to the following:
- The Vancouver Park Board vote to ban new cetacean captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium
- A national bill in Canada to end marine mammal captivity (written testimony provided)
- A Hawaii House of Representatives committee recommendation to phase out captivity of marine mammals (written testimony provided)
- Mexico City’s prohibition on the use of dolphins in public displays, therapy, scientific investigation, training and entertainment
- A proposed ban on traveling dolphin shows and contact zoos in the Russian Federation
- France’s breeding ban to phase out marine mammal captivity
- Thomas Cook’s decision to stop selling tickets to certain captive dolphin tourist attractions.
- A Dolphin Project-sponsored billboard awareness campaign against captivity and the new Dolphinaris facility in Phoenix, Arizona
These victories are the result of sustained effort that is 47 years in the making, and you have been an instrumental part of our global outreach efforts. This year our videos received over 100 million views, thanks to your social media sharing. By wearing Dolphin Project gear, you encourage dialogue, so that more people than ever before TAKE THE PLEDGE against captivity. And your donations, including matching gifts and planned estate giving, directly fund our worldwide campaigns.
Lincoln O’Barry and Dr. Sarah Meltzoff returned to Fanalei in the Solomon Islands to continue their work in helping dolphin-hunting communities transition away from their conventional hunts. Home to the largest drive slaughter of dolphins in the world, annual kills have dropped from a yearly average of 850 to 110 in 2016. Last year, Dolphin Project completed construction of a village school and committed to providing two years of teachers’ wages in order to alleviate the economic burden of school fees and thereby reduce the need for the hunts. The school serves as a meeting place for the entire community and our visiting team holds marine conservation seminars for the entire village. We are currently building a permanent field base in Fanalei, which will allow us to continue working with the community to develop sustainable economic alternatives to dolphin-hunting and strengthen marine protection in the area.
In Indonesia, we are continuing our efforts to end dolphin abuse, including putting an end to the traveling dolphin circuses, dolphin-swim programs and renovating Camp Lumba Lumba, the world’s first permanent rehabilitation facility for captive dolphins. Our puppet show road tours traveled throughout the archipelago this year, educating children through entertainment on the importance of marine conservation. Our “Free Bali Dolphins” billboard campaign in the Denpasar airport greeted every international arrival with a digital anti-captivity PSA, while our mural campaign provided artistic statements against dolphin abuse in 17 locations throughout Bali. In Balikpapan City, Indonesia, after many protests against the traveling dolphin circuses, the Mayor and City Council signed a commitment to ban animal shows in the city, setting an example for the entire country. We continue to challenge the traveling dolphin circuses, and are now consulting with the Forestry Ministry to combat them. After exposing the illegal kill of another entire orca family by fishermen in the village of Lamalera on the island of Lembata, the Ministry of Fisheries took action and decreed this was not a traditional hunt, marking the first time that the village’s practices have come under scrutiny by an outside body. With support from the local government, Dolphin Project established an education center in Flores, where islanders and tourists alike can learn about the importance of protecting marine life. It is the first center of its kind in Flores, an area known for marine mammal and sea turtle poaching. In December, Dolphin Project’s Indonesian marine mammal team and the Jakarta Animal Aid Network rescued and released a spinner dolphin, destined for Indonesia’s barbaric traveling circus.
Dolphin Project returned to The Cove in Taiji, Japan, for its 15th season, where our team is on the ground for the entire six-month hunting season. Using live-streaming technology and – new this year – 360-degree “immersive” video to document the dolphin drive hunts, we remain committed to sharing this information with the world. The season launched on Japan Dolphins Day, an international day of action and awareness that we have coordinated since 2005. This year we had over 40 events; I was proud to attend the London demonstration again this year. Dolphin Project also hosted its second annual virtual race “Tread for Taiji” with supporters worldwide raising awareness in their communities. Dolphin Project continues our lawsuit to challenge my illegal deportation from Japan so that I can return to Taiji one day, but in the meantime others are holding down the fort. Helene O’Barry traveled to Taiji last month in order to document the dolphin drives and further investigate the captive dolphin trade. Earlier this year, Dolphin Project Celebrity Ambassador and Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams traveled to Taiji to join our Cove Monitor team. Speaking of which, sales for her limited edition t-shirt “A Girl Will Save Dolphins” just ended, with 100% of the proceeds donated towards our campaigns. Lincoln O’Barry and Slash, renowned guitarist of “Guns and Roses”, also visited Japan this year, where Slash spoke out against the drive hunts in an interview with Reuters. Every step to raise awareness will lead to the end of the slaughter. This year, with the support of the producers of ‘The Cove’, we made the film freely available for view in Japan.
Dolphin Project’s education and outreach team reached new audiences in 2017, offering workshops to schools in northern California, university lectures in Wales, interviews with classrooms from Kathmandu to Washington, D.C., national teaching webinars, film festival panels, event booths, and more. Kids get it! I attended the Festival International du Journalisme Vivant in France, where ‘The Cove‘ was shown with a follow-up Q&A. Our Cove Monitor Coordinator Tim Burns participated via Skype in a panel hosted by Kyoto University to discuss the Taiji drive hunts and impacts of ‘The Cove’. In fact, ‘The Cove’ is still being shown in school auditoriums all around the world, and thanks to Skype, I’m able to do a live Q&A when the movie is over. We reach thousands of new people every month like this. None of these students will be buying a ticket for a dolphin show after these events. An educated consumer is the captive dolphin’s best friend.
Dolphin Project also recently launched a new website, making it easier than ever for people to TAKE ACTION on behalf of dolphins, featuring study guides for teachers, activism guides and other resources.
Dolphin Project has long advocated dolphin sanctuaries to retire captive dolphins, and we are continuing to move forward with plans for Europe’s first dolphin sanctuary project. This year I had the opportunity to scout various locations in Italy and Greece as we continue efforts to make this project a reality.
We’ve come a long way since 1970 when I made it my life’s mission to protect dolphins worldwide from exploitation and slaughter. Now, 47 years later, all of us at Dolphin Project are as committed as ever to making real and positive change for dolphins, but we need you on our team. We are entirely funded by you. Each time you donate to Dolphin Project, know that you are aiding the longest-running anti-captivity dolphin welfare organization in the world. Please continue to share our blogs, petitions and social media posts, and strike up a dialogue with whomever will listen. No action is ever too small and everything we do matters. Thank you for your support and for being on the right side of history.
Let’s protect dolphins together,
Founder/Director of Dolphin Project
Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is a non-profit charitable organization, dedicated to the welfare and protection of dolphins worldwide. Founded by Richard (Ric) O’Barry on Earth Day, April 22, 1970, the mission of the Dolphin Project is to end dolphin exploitation and slaughter, as dolphins are routinely captured, harassed, slaughtered and sold into captivity around the world – all in the name of profit.
Our work has been chronicled in films such as, ‘A Fall From Freedom,’ the Oscar-winning documentary ‘The Cove,’ and in the Animal Planet mini-series, ‘Blood Dolphin$.’