Coral World Plans to Enslave Dolphins

Ric O’Barry
Dolphin Project

People love dolphins. You would be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t. Unfortunately, this love is being manipulated by the captivity industry, transformed into a funnel for profits – billions of dollars worth. Now Coral World Ocean Park, a facility in the Virgin Islands, wants a piece of this unethical pie.

Coral World wants to bring up to ten dolphins to their facility as a part of their existing ‘swim-with’ program, which currently includes sea lions. They claim that these dolphins will have been bred in captivity, having never swum free in the ocean. Lee Keller, curator of Coral World, says that they will “build a natural and normal social group with these dolphins,” attempting to recreate what nature had intended.

I find the words ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ particularly ludicrous in this context. What is a dolphin that has never been free in the ocean? Confused, scared and stressed, most likely. Natural? Absolutely not. Who are dolphins that have been thrown into a confined space together, torn away from their familial bonds? Normal? Out of the question. Statements like these prove that Coral World is ready to say anything in order to get these veritable cash cows into their seapen.

There has been concern that these dolphins will be caught from the wild, as in Taiji, Japan, where many dolphins are slaughtered in the process. Fortunately, since the Virgin Islands are a territory of the United States, they will have a difficult time importing wild individuals due to existing laws. But we will keep a sharp eye out nonetheless. The Dolphin Project has also signed onto opposition initiated by the Humane Society of the United States in regards to the seapen being constructed in a coastal zone, which could damage the local ecosystem.

The greatest threat to dolphins remains our unawareness of who and what these incredible beings truly are. Dolphins are extremely intelligent, and perhaps are even more emotional than we humans. Research shows that dolphin’s brains are arranged to allow for more emotional information processing*. This could mean that their pain at being separated from their family, or being denied freedom of any kind, is in fact greater than what we could experience. What does this say about how we treat them?

It is doubtful that anyone at Coral World has read or considered this science. But the fact is that it exists. And the more people who know about it, the fewer will want to go to places like this. Reducing demand is the most important thing we can do for the dolphins.

Sign and share this petition and #Tweet4Dolphins. 

* Harry J. Jerison: The Perceptual World of Dolphins. Trykt i Schusterman & Wood (red.): Dolphin Cognition and Behavior: A Comparative Approach. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ 1986.

Artist rendition courtesy of Coral World. 

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About Ric O'Barry

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Ric O’Barry, Dolphin Project Founder & Director has worked on both sides of the captive dolphin issue, making him an invaluable asset in the efforts to end exploitation. He worked for 10 years within the dolphin captivity industry, and has spent the past 40 working against it.

In the 1960s, O’Barry was employed by the Miami Seaquarium, where he captured and trained dolphins, including the five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular American TV-series of the same name. He also trained Hugo, the first orca kept in captivity east of the Mississippi. When Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper most of the time, died in his arms, O’Barry realized that capturing dolphins and training them to perform silly tricks is simply wrong.

From that moment on, O’Barry knew what he must do with his life. On the first Earth Day, 1970, he launched a searing campaign against the multi-billion dollar dolphin captivity industry and has been going at it ever since.

Over the past 40 years, Ric O’Barry has rescued and rehabilitated dolphins in many countries around the world, including Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas Islands and the United States. He is a leading voice in the fight to end brutal dolphin hunts in Japan, the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, and wherever else they occur.

O’Barry has been recognized by many national and international entities for his dedicated efforts, such as being voted Huffington Post’s 2010 Most Influential Green Game Changer, and being listed on O Magazine’s 2010 Power List – Men We Admire for his “Power of Passion.” O’Barry received an Environmental Achievement Award, presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program. He has done countless interviews with such prestigious news programs as Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, the Mike Huckabee Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

His book Behind the Dolphin Smile was published in 1989; a second book, To Free A Dolphin was published in September 2000. Both of them are about his work and dedication. He is the star of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove and the Animal Planet television series Blood Dolphin$.

Author: Ric O'Barry


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