The Problem with Captivity

By Ric O’Barry

What is wrong with keeping dolphins in captivity?  Our volunteer for Dolphin Project in Taiji, Brian Barnes, reports on the captive pens and training:


Despite the fact that the killing cove is not currently being used, there still are currently about 70 dolphins in the captive holding areas being trained to tail walk, shake their fins and twirl hoops on their noses.  These dolphins will be sent to theme parks within Japan and around the world for one reason only – slavery to the entertainment industry.

A dolphin that has been slaughtered is sold for around $500.00 USD.  A dolphin sold to a theme park, or “swim with dolphin” program brings from $30,000.00 to $200,000.00 USD depending on how well trained it is, the aesthetics of the dolphin, and which country it is being shipped to.  The captive dolphin industry is driving the Taiji fishermen to capture and kill dolphins.  As Ric O’Barry has said, “These theme parks are rewarding Taiji for its bad behavior.”

Today, I went to Dolphin Base.  It’s a dolphin training facility located in Taiji with several training pens in the harbor and a few tanks on land.  I watched as five trainers worked with the newly captured dolphins.  The weather was horrible; it was pouring rain at the rate of probably a few inches per hour.  But, weather does not stop the training.  Dolphin Base is on a schedule to get these dolphins trained and shipped out to their awaiting concrete tanks where they’ll be exposed to loud music, fireworks and loud audiences.  Nothing about any of this is natural for these wild dolphins.

See Brian’s video of dolphins being trained in the rain:

Despite the claims of theme park “scientists” who earn their paycheck from the captive industry, dolphins do not do well in captivity.  Dolphin life spans are dramatically reduced.  Recently, Taiji sold the orca Nami from the Taiji Whale Museum to the Nagoya Aquarium.  Within months, she was dead.

The necropsy suggested that Nami had several kilograms of rocks in her stomach and literally bled to death from the inside.  It’s unknown why Nami was consuming rocks, but one thing is certain – she consumed them in the captivity area behind the Taiji Whale Museum.

In this area they allow people to feed the dolphins, and it’s possible that some people out of pure meanness were tossing rocks to her, and she thought they were fish.  Or it’s possible she ate them due to a bad diet, or even just boredom.  But, whatever the reason, the result is the same – death.

People need to stop visiting parks and programs with captive dolphins.  A fair number of the dolphins in captivity, even those born into captivity, have roots that trace to Taiji.  When the demand for captive dolphins decreases, so will the supply.  When the demand for captive dolphins is zero, Taiji will be out of the dolphin business.

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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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