Help This Struggling Ex-Dolphin Hunter Save the Sea Creatures He Now Protects

If there’s anyone who truly knows the price of the Japanese dolphin slaughter, it’s Izumi Ishii of Futo, Japan.

A former dolphin hunter himself, the hunt is in his blood. His father made a living hunting the dolphins, and his grandfather before him.

In a dolphin hunt, also known as a dolphin drive, the gentle creatures are cornered, trapped, and hauled away to be used for food and shipped to aquariums. The Japanese government permits a certain number of dolphins to be killed every year. It’s a lucrative business for fishermen, many of whom, like Izumi Ishii’s family, also view it as a tradition.

But, in 2002, Ishii ditched the cruel practice after a killing he’d never forget. As he held his prey in his hands, he saw a tear fall down the dolphin’s cheek. Ishii knew he couldn’t continue to sacrifice these serene creatures for his own profit. So he challenged himself to stop the hunt in Futo entirely.

And the way he did it was totally genius. He launched a dolphin and whale watching business, operating on his beloved boat Kokaimaru — right alongside the area where dolphin hunters would conduct the commercial killings.


With so many curious eyes on their heartless work, the hunters weren’t able to justify the slaughter. So it last went down in 2004.

Still, every year the fishing union votes in favor of the hunt. So if they wanted to start it back up, they’d legally be able to.

Izumi Ishii’s work is symbolic of a larger effort to end dolphin abuse forever. Since he’s a former fisherman, it’s all the more impressive to see how he turned everything around to fight for the dolphins.

Now, he runs Bright Sea, an organization that works tirelessly to end the dolphin drive for good. He speaks at universities in Japan, campaigns to make sure Futo won’t ever be able to restart the hunt, and collaborates with others who are passionate about ending the slaughter, like Ric O’Barry of Dolphin Project.


Ishii believes that running a dolphin watch business is a worthy alternative for former hunters, who need a source of income to support their families. Dolphin hunting only benefits the fishermen, and the bloody process scares tourists away. But dolphin watching benefits the whole community, as people come from all over the world to observe the creatures.


Right now, however, by shouldering the burden of both teaching people about and watching the dolphins, Ishii’s struggling to pay the bills. His expenditures far outweigh his income, and it’s essential that the business stay afloat — if nobody’s watching, who will stop the hunters from restarting the drive in Futo?

Ishii needs your help to keep the dolphin watch going, and there’s not much time. We’ve got less than two weeks to raise $12,000 so he can pay off the loans he took out to keep the dolphin watching boat running.


If Ishii can’t get the money in time, the bank will confiscate his assets, including the boat and everything else that keeps the dolphin watching expeditions up and running. We can’t risk the possibility of Futo’s fishermen restarting the hunt. And if Ishii’s boat isn’t able to go out to check on the dolphins, it’ll be easy for the hunters to bring back the drive.

Please share this story, and take action to help Izumi Ishii and Bright Sea eliminate the dolphin hunt — for good.


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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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