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Conservation Spotlight: Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project

Dedicated to protecting dolphins since the 1970s, Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is still going strong.

Dedicated to protecting dolphins since the 1970s, the Dolphin Project aims to stop dolphin hunting and captivity around the world. Today we are chatting with Christine Gau, Project Coordinator. She offers more details about the different actions led by Dolphin Project.

What is the Dolphin Project doing?

Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project has worked to protect wild and captive dolphins worldwide since 1970. We seek to end the hunting, slaughter, and live capture of dolphins for the entertainment industry. We rely on a combination of field-based projects and public-awareness initiatives. 

How and why did it start?

Ric O’Barry, a former trainer for the television show Flipper, founded the organization. The Dolphin Project arose from the desire to bring the suffering of captive dolphins, forced to perform unnatural behaviors for human entertainment, to an end. After watching his favorite dolphin deteriorate and ultimately die in his arms, O’Barry realized the toll that captivity takes on the lives of marine mammals. Thenceforward he dedicated his efforts to ending dolphin captivity, and in the years since, he has advocated tirelessly for the end of captive marine-mammal entertainment.

What are the main actions and/or areas of focus?

Dolphin Project is working to end dolphin hunts in areas including Indonesia and the Solomon Islands, and to offer sustainable economic alternatives to hunting. We work within the community to increase understanding of marine protection. We have established a dolphin rehabilitation center in Indonesia for stranded and accidentally-caught dolphins. And we also work closely with government officials to provide infrastructure for enforcement of conservation regulations.  

How many people are involved and what are their roles?

While our core team remains very small, Dolphin Project thrives with the support of dedicated volunteers. For six months each year, Dolphin Project staffs volunteer Cove Monitors in Taiji, Japan. Here they observe and document the dolphin slaughters that take place. The 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove, highlights the hunts there and Ric’s involvement. Raising awareness about these hunts, which supply aquariums around the world with live-caught dolphins, has been a primary objective for Ric and the team for over a decade. Fishermen sell dozens of dolphins each year and drive the remaining members of their pod to shore to be slaughtered for meat or feed.

How can people help?

Ongoing public awareness is a key objective. We endeavor to support the efforts of grassroots organizations and individuals who wish to raise awareness. One of the biggest ways people can help is by learning about and sharing information on how dolphins are captured from the wild and how they are trained to perform in aquariums. Take the pledge not to buy a ticket to a dolphin show. Don’t participate in a swim-with-dolphins encounter. Ask others to do the same. Individuals can reach their own family, friends, and communities with direct communication.

By decreasing consumer demand for these exploitative forms of entertainment, we can collectively end the hunts that fuel them, and end the harmful conditions of captivity for dolphins. Please visit our website for more or donate here.