WHAT WAS THE REACTION WHEN THESE DRIVE FISHERIES IN JAPAN
I wasn't until 1993 when basically the beans were spilled. There was some
footage from Hardy Jones and there was basically a revelation to the National
Fishery Services - which is our U.S. government body that regulates captures
and public display at that time - hat these animals were being captured in a
manner that was different from what the permit allowed.
It wasn't so much how it was a drive fishery. It was simply that it was
different in what the permit allowed. And in fact it could be argued it wasn't
humane and it was required that the capturement be humane. And there was a
sort of minimal definition of what they meant by that and driving them into
shore and beaching them and then slaughtering some of them and wasn't humane
under that definition, so because it was suddenly exposed that this is how
false killer whales were captured, 20, 25 animals that were here in the United
States were captured that way.
The National Fisheries Service who frankly was turning a blind eye. They're not
stupid and they're not blind and they did know in my opinion, what was going
on. But they didn't aggressively investigate it. But when it was shoved into
their face this way, the footage and all, they couldn't deny it any more, they
basically shut down that avenue of acquiring animals from Japan. So now Japan
in general is not considered a legal source of whales and dolphins for
captivity in the United States because there's always the possibility that a
drive fishery was used.
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE IN THE INDUSTRY WHO ARGUE WE'RE SAVING ANIMALS FROM
THE DRIVE FISHERY. THEY WOULD BE SLAUGHTERED IF WE DIDN'T....?
When representatives from the public display industry claim that they're
rescuing animals from the drive fishery I find that so unbelievably
disingenuous of them, so self serving.
I don't think anybody who's properly wise to the ways of the world, I'm not
talking about cynical really-- but you have to be savvy, to trade in wildlife,
and if you're gonna be so deliberately naive as to say, 'oh we're gonna pay
$20,000 for each animal, $5,000 for each, I don't know, thousands of dollars
for each animal to rescue them' - Make the connection! That's an incentive
to these guys to go out and make more animals to rescue. If you put cash value
on an animal, that immediately provides an incentive for some human being out
there to get more of them, however they're going to get them.
There's a similar situation where the native hunt for walrus, up in Alaska,
provides orphans for public display facilities so they can have walrus in their
facilities and, I understand, they pay for these orphans. So although it is
considered bad management, bad conservation, to kill mothers with pups there
must be an incentive for these guys to kill lactating females, the ones with
the pups, so they can create an orphan that they can sell. Even though they
know it's bad management, that they should be trying to kill males or juveniles
As soon as you put cash value, a bounty, on the head of an animal, you've got
some human being out there who's going to exploit it. And anybody who turns a
blind eye to that, or pretends that that's not really the point, or the
motive--they're either living under a rock, or they're being deliberately
COULD YOU DISCUSS THE SITUATION WITH THE NAVY AND THE RELEASE OF THE TWO
The Navy uses bottlenose dolphins and a couple of other species in some of
their work. They've had dolphins in captivity since I believe the 60's,
possibly even the 50's. The program grew in the 70's and 80's until it included
at least 105 bottlenose dolphins and a few beluga whales and I believe a pilot
whale or two. And there was also a couple killer whales at some point in the
And generally speaking, what they were using them for was retrieving objects.
You know, it's a great method of retrieving things that fall overboard. You've
got basically an animal that's very smart and can be trained to fetch and you
just send them out after it to guard patrol, guard and patrol harbors, if
something strange or novel or not supposed to be there showed up, they would go
to their trainer and warn them.
And also apparently--and this is hotly debated in activist and advocate
circles-- also, apparently they train them to plant land mines on vessel hulls
and even to kill scuba divers. Now, apparently all that's kept classified, that
last category of task is still classified and so I'm not in a position to say
whether it's true or not. There are some individuals in the activist community
who swear that they were training them to do that so I just sort of leave that
to the audience to decide.
But I do know, of course they have no trouble admitting it's not classified,
that they were training them to do all these other things. And then, of
course, the entire military have budget cuts in the late 80's and whatever, and
so one of the first programs targeted to be downsized was the dolphin program.
Because in the end a lot of the brass recognized that a dolphin is not a
reliable soldier. They're moody. They have personalities, they don't
understand the concept of loyalty to their country. They're not citizens of
the United States, they're citizens of the ocean, so they weren't reliable. I
mean if they really didn't wanna do it, they wouldn't do it. And when you're
in a military combat specifically, combat situation--that's a very, very
troublesome element of uncertainty. So a lot of the brass were basically sort
of giving up on it anyway, at least in combat situations. We're having them
retrieve objects and all that's great but, that's about it, you didn't need 105
dolphins for that, so forth and so on.
So, they were gonna downsize and, we, being the advocate community, the Humane
Society, a few other groups, worked very hard in Congress to get them to
order the Navy to release those downsized animals back into the wild. Most of
them fact were wild caught, not all of them, but a lot of them, and, in fact we
got a directive from Congress to do that.
And what the Navy did with that directive was they got together a group of
experts, to discuss the viability of a rehabilitation and release program.
Congress appropriated $500,000, half a million dollars to look at the issue and
to do it.
I mean half a million dollars, a lot of money, so they I believe if you read
the language in the Congressional directive you'll see that they intended them
to use that money to do it. To start a program and release these dolphins.
Instead the Navy used that money to get together this panel of experts and hold
approximately I believe about six days of meetings. Now, they produced a
report at the end of those six days of meetings. Basically said
rehabilitation and release was probably possible but would be expensive and
would be experimental for at least another decade, and so they didn't recommend
that the Navy do it.
And at the end of all of that, $500,000 was missing, I mean I can only say
missing because it cannot possibly have cost all that money to have 6 days of
meetings and produce that report but that was the end of it for the Navy.
They still had to downsize however, so they offered basically about a dozen
animals to the public display industry-- any facility that was legal, licensed
by the government, could have these animals for the public display.
And when they made that offer, the activist community wanted to acquire some
of those animals for pilot rehab/release project, and there was a facility in
Florida, that was making itself available as a sanctuary. And after some
interesting discussions with the Navy, very intense negotiations ,the Navy
agreed to turn over six animals to this facility in Florida and the Humane
Society of the United States. And, the Humane Society was not actually going
to have title to these animals because we don't have a facility we're not in
the business of owning animals, of course. But we would oversee sort of the
project, this rehab release project through this facility in Florida.
So memorandum of agreement was written up and all of that. In the end, only
three animals came to that sanctuary. There was nothing, sort of sinister
about that. It just--logistics worked out that way. And, the project started
out well, we had high hopes, we really did think that this was gonna work. The
animals were originally from Mississippi so they went to Florida just as a
halfway house and they were gonna be taught to eat live fish and weaned off of
human dependency and basically desensitized to commands. And people handling
them, and then they were gonna go to Mississippi and be released back where
they were captured. That was the plan.
Unfortunately there was a lot of people problems and I think in the end,
captive wildlife often suffers from the inability of humans to get along. And I
feel very sad about that, but it happens more times than I can possibly say.
Anyway, there were a lot of people problems and in the end certain
decisions were made that weren't exactly what we had planned. For instance we
had hoped to get a research permit from the United States government because of
course we wanted to do this legally. There's a law that protects marine
mammals, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and we wanted to make sure that
everything we did, from handling the animals to releasing them into the wild
There were those involved in the project who disagreed with that, they didn't
think the government did have legal authority over what we were planning to do.
So rather than take it to court, which is perhaps a matter for a court to
decide --they simply decided to conduct an act of civil disobedience and break
the law as it currently stands. Problem with that of course is the dolphins
didn't volunteer to perform an act of civil disobedience. And so the release
was conducted illegally and as I said it maybe that the government doesn't have
any jurisdiction over that sort of action but it's something that needs to be
decided in a court. It's unresolved at the moment so until it's resolved in a
court, you have to presume that the government does have authority.
So they did do an illegal release, they being the, the activists who disagreed
with the Humane Society, and obviously the animals weren't prepared. The
protocols that we had hoped would be followed to prepare them for life back in
the wild were not followed. They were still dependent on people, they still
associated people with food, all of these habits that we, the Humane Society of
United States feel need to be broken before they're released weren't.
And then, to top it all off, instead of taking them back to Mississippi, they
released them off of Key West and the analogy I like to use for that is that
it's like taking somebody who knows New York City really well and saying --
'hey, big cities are big cities, let them go in the middle of Chicago' and
expect them to get along. They don't know any of the street names, they don't
know any of directions they don't know where all the important points in the
city are, they don't know the subway, or the L or whatever, just because it's
a big city doesn't mean it's the big city they know just because it's the ocean
doesn't mean it's the part of the ocean that they know so they didn't know any
of the dolphins in that area, they were total strangers. And it wasn't even
like they were returning to Mississippi and remeeting old friends or
relatives, they were complete and total strangers in a strange land when they
were released off of Key West And as I said, they apparently weren't prepared
because they immediately started begging for food.
Within two weeks they were recaptured because the National Marine Fisheries
Service considered it an illegal release which it technically was at that
point, and confiscated them. It was easy to recapture them, that in and of
itself should say something. If they were truly wild again, it would have
been just as hard to recapture them as if they had been newly captured, instead
they just called them and they came. They responded to the signals, nothing
had been extinguished, and so they came right to people. They were starving,
they weren't doing very well, they had been injured, apparently two of them in
fact had been hit by a boat. They'd separated so they caught them in different
areas, about 70 miles apart and now all three of these dolphins are back with
the Navy. One of them in fact is still in Florida and probably will remain
there although I believe technically is still a Navy dolphin, the other two are
back in San Diego in the Navy facility there.
RIC O'BARRY IS ON THE RECORD SAYING HE WAS THE ONE WHO RELEASED THEM. AND HE'S
VERY CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU SAID-- THAT NMFS HAD NO JURISDICTION ....
He may be right. The Humane Society of the US isn't terribly interested at
the moment in pursuing that legally because, we believe we can get a permit.
And, we feel that will be, give us a stronger case, that we can justify it
scientifically and ethically and pragmatically. And because we want the
biggest tool, the biggest stick to whack the public display industry over the
head with. We want to be able to say to them - 'see we can play your game,
not.' And we don't think it's a dirty game. We think getting a permit from
the government is perfectly legitimate process 'We can play your game and we
can win and we can prove, prove to your satisfaction, let alone ours that these
animals can be returned to the wild. So that's why we aren't particularly
interested in pursuing this as a legal matter.
But, Mr. O'Barry may be perfectly correct that the National Marine Fisheries
Service really doesn't have jurisdiction over rehabilitation and release
efforts. If that's so, they gotta go to court. This has gotta be decided by a
court. That's what a lawsuit is all about, challenging the legal authority --
in this case-- the National Marine Fishery Service.
And a judge will look[01:17:30] at all the evidence and look at the statute,
look at the language and say-- you don't have authority or, I'm sorry you do
have authority, whatever the judge decides. And that's how you deal with that.
You don't simply commit an act of civil disobedience, with innocent animals
that don't know what they're getting into, I mean I know that sounds funny but,
the dolphins were pawns in a political gesture. I don't think that's fair.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE IMPACT OF WHAT O'BARRY DID ON HIS OWN LARGER PURPOSE?
Well, basically the activist and advocate community is divided. There are those
who believe it's important to do this legitimately. By legitimately I mean
legally, as things stand with a scientific research permit. With all of the
trappings, if you will, that go along with that. And then there's the side of
the community that believes that all that's just hooey and it should be-- the
government doesn't have authority and we should just be able to rehabilitate,
release these animals without any more fuss.
And, I think we've made it very clear to the larger audience, including the
public display industry that there is such a division and I regret the
division. Division's bad but nevertheless it exists. Therefore what happened
with the Navy dolphins, I think is, clearly separate, even to our enemies if
you will than what some of the rest of us want to accomplish.
So in terms of the damage it may or may not have done, I don't think it was
particularly damaging. On the other hand it was terribly damaging to Jake,
Buck and Luther. They were away from the Navy, they were on their way to being
rehabilitated and returned to the wild, and they're back with the Navy now. In
the end you have to look at results, not intentions and the result of what
happened in that situation is that those animals are no longer on the road to
freedom. And I can't emphasize that enough.