Eight Risso’s Dolphins Killed
By Heather Hill
We checked the weather report before going to sleep last night and saw a marine warning had been posted due to an incoming thunderstorm. We thought today would be an easy day.
Despite the warning, eleven banger boats headed out of the harbor this morning, one by one, in a single file line. There was a thick layer of fog hanging low on the horizon, and we quickly lost sight of the them. We anxiously scanned back and forth, hoping they would come back empty handed. We didn’t have to wait long. The next time the boats appeared they were in a drive formation and black smoke filled the air.
By the time we’d hiked up Takababe Hill, above the Cove, we expected the boats to be nearing the mouth of the harbor, but they were still quite a ways offshore. The small pod of eight Risso’s dolphins were putting up a good fight, making it hard for the fishermen to track them. They would all surfaced together, take a few breaths, and disappear again for several minutes at a time. This must have been terribly frustrating for the fishermen. With each sighting they were able to drive the pod a bit closer, but each time the dolphins dove the boats had to fan out and wait. This went on for more than an hour. At one point the dolphins surfaced behind the boats, and we thought they might actually escape. Once again black smoke filled the air as the diesel engines fired up, and the fishermen were able to cut the pod off. The chase was an emotional roller coaster of extreme highs and lows for those of us on land, and I can’t even imagine the stress and terror the dolphins must have been experiencing.
Our hearts broke as we helplessly watched the frightened dolphins swim into the Cove, and a small skiff pull the first net across the entrance. The dolphins would have no more chances of escape. During the last slaughter we were able to watch Risso’s for about ten minutes before they were driven under the tarps. Today, the fishermen quickly pushed the eight dolphins further and further into the killing Cove and out of our sight.
Looking down through the trees we saw the nets being taken down and assumed the killing was over. After reviewing video footage we discovered that at least one dolphin was still alive and thrashing around in the shallow water. The dolphin killers must have had them restrained or injured to the point that they were no longer concerned about them swimming out of the Cove in a last ditch effort to survive.
Eight precious lives were lost, and countless tears were shed around the world today because of the actions of one small group of fishermen. As we wept, these fishermen laughed. I will never understand the lack of value some people can place on a life.
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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$.
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