“I’ve been doing this work for 50 years and there have been very, very few good days. Our victories are few and far between and usually temporary. But today is one of those good days.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project on the relocation of dolphins Rocky, Rambo, Dewa and Johnny to the world’s first permanent Dolphin Sanctuary in Bali, Indonesia
For close to 50 years, Dolphin Project, the longest-running dolphin welfare organization in the world, has advocated for the rights and the protections of all dolphins. We envision a world where dolphins are afforded their birthright of swimming wild and free, not held captive in concrete tanks and manmade pens. This year we have seen a global shift in how dolphins are viewed – no longer as commodities, designated to entertain and serve but instead, to be respected on their own terms and admired as ambassadors of the sea.
As Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project has shown, global shifts can be achieved with perseverance, dedication and team work. Our greatest partners have always been you, and without your continued support, none of our achievements would have been possible. One of the many metrics to show our effectiveness is through our social media engagement. This year alone, we have had 36 million impressions on Twitter, with our tweets retweeted 283 thousand times, on Facebook we have had 12.4 million video views, and we have had 55 million impressions on Instagram! So, our year in review is dedicated to you and the thousands of extended Dolphin Project pod members around the globe who together helped protect dolphins!
CLOSED: Dolphinaris Arizona
“Dolphins do not belong in the desert.” ~ Ric O’Barry
Dolphinaris Arizona provided proof of this when four of its dolphins died in just 16 months. The facility not only had an unprecedented death rate which was more than four times the combined rate of all facilities in the United States, but it also prompted a protest by DolphinFree AZ, a local group of grassroots campaigners who on February 9, took to the streets of Scottsdale and made their voices heard. Dolphin Project lent its support by procuring a plane to fly a banner for the entire weekend over high profile events and locations.
Through our combined efforts, Dolphinaris closed. Dolphin Quest, the owner of the dolphins, terminated their animal loan agreement with the facility and on February 15, all Dolphinaris signs had been removed from the building. While plans for the facility remain undefined, Ventura Entertainment, who owns Dolphinaris, stated that no animals will be involved moving forward.
Dolphin Project brings Empty the Tanks campaign onboard
“71 locations throughout 25 countries around the world joined us for a day of action against cetacean captivity.” ~ Rachel Carbary, Empty the Tanks campaign founder
What can we say about Rachel? She’s relentless, determined, and exactly the kind of person we love having on our team. In June of this year we brought Rachel and the Empty the Tanks event onboard, along with other exciting campaigns. Not only has Rachel represented us in Taiji, Japan, as a Cove Monitor, she also birthed what is considered today one of the largest global events specifically targeting marine mammal captivity.
The Empty the Tanks campaign, which Carbary formed in 2013 has exploded from its initial inception of 21 locations in 12 countries to 71 locations throughout 25 countries, and she hasn’t stopped there.
Rachel is also helping to coordinate our established Japan Dolphins Day and our annual Global Beach Cleanup events. “Together we can bring about change that much quicker,” Rachel told us, and we couldn’t agree more.
Canada ends the captivity of dolphins and other whales
“Thirty years ago, I was sent a very disturbing photo of a dolphin named Duke, a bottlenose dolphin who for decades performed at Marineland in Niagara Falls until his demise in the early 1990s. Duke was, in fact, the most beat-up dolphin I had ever seen.” ~ Ric O’Barry
The photo of Duke was taken by one of our own, Cara Sands. Cara is now our Editorial Manager at Dolphin Project and she never forgot Duke. The photograph she took so many years ago grabbed Ric’s attention. Since then, he has vigorously supported local efforts in Ontario to bring awareness to the plight of captive marine mammals.
On June 10, Canada made history with the passing of Bill S-203: Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. Although it is too late for Duke, other animals will benefit from the passing of this bill. Vancouver Aquarium, one of two facilities affected by the bill’s passing, is phasing out cetacean captivity. Marineland in Niagara Falls will do the same, however, they still hold many captive cetaceans, from beluga whales to dolphins and the lone orca, Kiska.
Dolphin Project will not forget these animals, we will continue to support local groups in their fight to give these animals a better future. Thank you, Canada, and thank you to our friends and colleagues across the border for their dedication and hard work.
Dolphin Project hosts first-ever Global Beach Cleanup
On July 14, we were proud to host our first-ever annual Global Beach Cleanup. There are an estimated 18 billion pounds of plastic waste entering the oceans each year from coastal regions, waste that is being ingested by wild whales and dolphins – leading to their demise.
It’s a global issue that needs to be tackled on a global scale.
If we’re going to rescue and release dolphins, they need a safe habitat. Countless participants across 22 locations in North America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania, pitched in to help and educate beachgoers. As we move forward, we hope this annual event will continue to grow.
Dolphin Project confiscates four dolphins; several other species from Melka Hotel in Bali
“We first went to the Melka Hotel in 2010, having discovered it while filming Blood Dolphin$. We have been working on a campaign to get the animals out of there ever since.” – Lincoln O’Barry, Campaigns Coordinator, Dolphin Project.
The Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina, North Bali, Indonesia, first hit our radar almost 10 years ago when we discovered that five bottlenose dolphins were being held in deplorable conditions. Forced to interact with tourists in dolphin therapy and swim-with programs, the habitat for these dolphins was unimaginably bleak. Their home was a hotel swimming pool.
Following several complaints made to the Central Jakarta Forestry Department, our team was asked to investigate the hotel. Our report prompted the Indonesian government to order the confiscation of all animals at the hotel. Tasked with the removal of all five dolphins, we got to work.
Unfortunately, on August 3, just days before the rescue, one of the dolphins, Gombloh, died. The four remaining dolphins, Rocky, Rambo, Johnny, and Dewa, underwent health assessments for removal. All of them displayed both psychological and physiological issues from their captive environment. These issues meant that we had to stagger their removal. Dewa was the sickest of the four dolphins, and Johnny is blind, but Rocky and Rambo looked like excellent candidates for release.
On August 5, the latter two dolphins were moved to a temporary holding ocean pen, returning them to their natural habitat. They responded to their new environment almost immediately. Absent the concrete walls, they once again experienced the natural rhythms of the ocean. Their exhilaration was obvious – one of them even began to chase fish.
Dolphin Project establishes world’s first permanent dolphin sanctuary
“JAAN and Dolphin Project have been working towards this goal for many years. And it’s finally coming together. It’s amazing what can be accomplished if you have cooperation. Using the power of cooperation, our goal is to create a world-class sanctuary in Indonesia for dolphins.” ~ Ric O’Barry
Our next project was a decade in the making. If there is a testament to determination and perseverance, this is it. For years we have been campaigning in Indonesia to end dolphin exploitation. Our Free Bali Dolphins campaign used graffiti and mural art initiatives, electronic billboards placed throughout Indonesia, digital ads at the Bali airport and even a traveling educational puppet show. It finally paid off.
We knew we needed to build a permanent facility to house Johnny and Dewa. When you campaign for the release of dolphins, you’d best have somewhere for them to go. Working alongside the Indonesian government and our local colleagues – the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), we completed the first stage of our Dolphin Sanctuary in just two months.
On October 8, Dolphin Project, in conjunction with our local partners, the Central Jakarta Forestry Department and JAAN established the world’s first permanent dolphin sanctuary. In just nine weeks, Johnny and Dewa were moved to the sanctuary where they will now have a permanent home. No more swimming with tourists, no more loud music and definitely no more barren concrete walls. These dolphins will never again have to beg for food. They can now enjoy the natural sounds and swells of the ocean and play in the pristine waters of West Bali National Park.
On December 9, Rocky and Rambo left their temporary sea pen and joined Johnny and Dewa at the sanctuary. If they are deemed suitable candidates, it is our hope to readapt and eventually release Rocky and Rambo in Central Java, their original home range.
TripAdvisor stops selling tickets to captive wild animal acts
“This is great news. TripAdvisor did the responsible thing, putting compassion over profit. We hope other travel agencies will follow their lead and stop sending tourists to dolphinariums.” ~ Ric O’Barry
In 2019 several travel-related companies, including one of the largest, TripAdvisor, agreed to stop promoting or selling tickets to captive whale and dolphin shows. This is a result of individuals across the world contacting these companies and putting pressure on them to end the promotion of such attractions. TripAdvisor had already ended the sale of tickets to other animal attractions such as elephant riding or tiger petting in 2016. However, with the addition of whale and dolphin shows, tickets to parks that breed, import or capture whales, can no longer be purchased through TripAdvisor’s website.
While the policy allows for some exceptions, it addresses the primary driving force for captivity – public demand.
Dolphin Project returns to The Cove, Taiji, Japan
“Four large mammals swam towards the beach. The rest of the pod followed, and suddenly, chaos erupted. Dolphins were throwing themselves onto the rocks; others were being grabbed by the hunters in attempts to pull them out of the shallows. Many dolphins were injured, their blood turning the water a rusty shade of red. Everywhere our team looked a nightmare unfolded. We documented several animals floating lifelessly on their backs and assume there were many casualties.” — Tim Burns, Dolphin Project
Finally, while we have expanded our scope considerably this year, the annual dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan, still have our focus. Our Cove Monitors have been at ground zero since the season began, keeping us – and you – informed about events occurring at the infamous Cove. Despite enduring Typhoon Hagibis and one of the worst pilot whale drives we’ve ever witnessed, our team will document events until the end of the season.
Dolphin Project releases first-ever drone footage of Taiji’s dolphin hunt
“The drone was able to capture an entire dolphin drive from beginning to end, and we’re seeing this from the dolphin’s point of view for the first time. You really feel what the dolphins are feeling and it’s a much more emotional experience to watch.” ~ Lincoln O’Barry
Each year, under the pretense of “tradition,” dolphin hunters attempt to thwart our efforts to openly film the slaughter. So we used a drone. With this technology, we were able to release the first-ever drone footage of a dolphin hunt from start to finish, exposing a new view of the horrors that take place in the Cove. This footage has been picked up by international media, further widening our scope of exposing Taiji’s brutal dolphin hunts.
O’Barry versus Japan
“I have never violated the Japanese legal system and will continue to respect the rule of law. I look forward to seeing your beautiful country and all of my Japanese friends once again, especially those who work tirelessly to abolish the unnecessary dolphin slaughter in Taiji. I will continue to support their peaceful movement in a respectful manner as a law-abiding tourist.” ~ Ric O’Barry
The best news out of Japan in 2019 concerned our Founder/Director, Ric O’Barry. In January 2016, Ric was denied entry into Japan and placed in detention. Nineteen days later and 22 pounds lighter, he was deported. Dolphin Project immediately filed an objection followed by a lawsuit.
In October of this year, three years and eight months after his deportation from Japan, the Tokyo District Court declared that the deportation order by the Ministry of Justice be revoked citing that both his denial of entry and deportation were without legal merit.
While we won the initial case the government has appealed.
2019 has been a busy year, filled with many positive “firsts” for dolphins. Thanks to you, we’ve witnessed a global shift in the way dolphins are perceived. Whether you’ve shared a petition, watched our livestreams, made a recurring donation, or attended one of our events – THANK YOU. None of this would have been possible without you.
2020 is going to be another busy year for Dolphin Project – in fact, we’re approaching our 50th anniversary defending dolphins worldwide! Please continue to share our blogs and be sure to follow us on social media to keep informed of our latest updates.
On behalf of all of us at Dolphin Project, we wish you the happiest of holidays and many blessings for the year ahead.
Featured image: Rocky and Rambo swim in the spacious waters of the Bali Dolphin Sanctuary, Indonesia. Credit: JP Christo