historical chronology
A listing of dolphin/whale captures, their public displays,  pregnancy and birth estimates, and death estimates in captivity

U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act
1972passed by the U.S. Congress.
1994as amended, jurisdiction of the care and management of captive marine mammals passes from the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service to the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service.

Early Killer Whale Capture Attempts on Record
1961, NovemberMarineland of the Pacific, south of Los Angeles, discovers a single orca feeding alone in nearby Newport Harbor. They corral the female whale, finally hoisting it onto a flatbed. When the whale is introduced into the tank, she smashes head-on into the wall. Frank Brocato, Marineland's head animal collector at the time, recalls: "We'd suspected the animal was in trouble because of its erratic behavior in the harbor...But the next day, she went crazy. She started swimming at high speed around the tank, striking her body repeatedly. Finally, she convulsed and died." The autopsy reveals she suffered from acute gastroenteritis and pneumonia.

1962, SeptemberFrank Brocato, Marineland's head animal collector, and his assistant, Boots Calandrino, bring their 40-foot collecting boat, the Geronimo, to Puget Sound, Washington, to search for another killer whale for the aquarium. After a month of searching, they found a mature male and female orca in Haro Strait, off San Juan Island. "The female, who seemed to be chasing something, headed straight for the boat. At that moment, Brocato saw a harbor porpoise cross the bow and skirt the ship...The porpoise was followed by the female orca, in hot pursuit." The two animals circled the boat, the little porpoise apparently using the boat as a shield. "'I reeled there was a good chance to use the lasso,' said Brocato, remembering he incident. 'So I put my partner out on the bowsprit and told him to watch for that porpoise... because the orca might be right behind it. And it was. He slipped on the lasso. We had her. But then everything started to go wrong.' The cow cut sharply and dived under the boat,...its last few turns caught the heavy nylon line and wound it around the propeller shaft, immobilizing the boat. ...The female ran the end of her 250-foot-long tether and surfaced at the edge of the mist. Then Brocato heard screaminghigh-pitched piercing criescoming from the female. ...the big male appeared out of the mist a few minutes later, and together, the two animals started swimming at great speed toward the boat. They charged several times, turning away only at the last instant but thumping the boat with a sound thwack of the flukes as they passed. ...Brocato grabbed his 375-magnum rifle and started shooting. He put one bullet into the male, who then disappeared. But it took 10 shots to kill the female. ... That night, Brocato towed the carcass to nearby Bellingham to have the animal weighed and measured. ...Brocato took the teeth as souvenirs, and the animal was rendered for dog food."

Pacific Northwest Orca Captures
1964Moby Doll, the first live orca exhibited in captivity. Harpooned as a sculptor's model, he survived for three months in a makeshift pen in Vancouver harbor. Vancouver Aquarium collectors had harpooned him off the coast of British Columbia.

1965Namu is accidentally snared in a fisherman's gill net near Namu, British Columbia, Canada. Ted Griffin, the young owner of the Seattle Public Aquarium buys Namu for $8,000 cash. The bull killer whale is the first captive orca to perform for the public. Namu dies in July 1996 - 11 months later- due to an infection from polluted water in his pen. (Read the interview and profile of Ted Griffin for more details about Namu, and the bond that formed between this killer whale and the man who capture him.)

1966-early 1970sDon Goldsberry and Ted Griffin develop a netting technique for capturing orcas in Puget Sound, selling the animals mostly to Sea World. By the early 1970s, Goldsberry has captured more than 200 orcas. About 30 were sent to various aquaria. The rest went to Sea World.

1970Penn Cove, Washington, whale capture. 80 whales are corralled by the Seattle Public Aquarium's collectors. Several whales die during the capture. Their bellies are slit and they are weighed down with steel chains. A few of these whales wash ashore and cause public outcry against whale captures in Washington's waters.

1976Washington state waters are closed to killer whale captures, in the aftermath of the notorious Budd Inlet killer whale capture of the same year. The whale roundup and capture was witnessed by Ralph Munro, an assistant to Washington State Governor Dan Evans. Munro happened to be sailing in Puget Sound at the time. He reports that Sea World's captors were using aircraft and explosives to herd and net the whalesa clear violation of the terms of their collection permit. When Washington State Governor Dan Evans learned of this, he sued Sea World. All of the whales were eventually released, and a Seattle district court ordered Sea World to give up its permit-granted right to collect killer whales off Washington. Washington state waters became an unofficial sanctuary for killer whales, and so far, no organization has ever again applied to capture killer whales from these waters.

Iceland whale captures
1976With Washington state waters off limits, Sea World turned to Iceland for its killer whale captures. After Puget Sound, SeaWorld did not want to be officially involved, but Don Goldsberry agreed to unofficially assist W.H. Dudok van Heel, zoological director of Holland's Dolfinarium Harderwijk, and Jon Kr. Gunnarsson, director of Saedyrasafnid, an aquarium near Reykjavik. During the fall herring season, they netted two young whales, and airlifted them to Holland. One of these whales was forwarded to Sea World in San Diego after six months. The following October, the same consortium captured six orcas. In October 1978, Goldsberry and Gunnarson caught another five. In just two short years, Sea World had nine new whales, and at this point, reportedly dropped out of the picture.

1976-1979According to Gunnarson, 21 Icelandic killer whales, mostly young ones, were sent to aquariums from 1976-79. Besides Sea World's nine, two each went to Dolfinarium Harderwijk, Marineland of France, Canada's Marineland, and Kamogawa Sea World in Japan. Single animals were sent to new aquariums in Hong Kong and Switzerland."

1989The last capture of killer whales in Iceland's waters (four orcas caught).

Japanese drive fishery
1980Hardy Jones captures on film Japan's dolphin drive fishery. It is broadcast worldwide and international outrage brings an end to these drives for a few years.

Mid-1980sThe drive fisheries start up again, but with a new twist. The fishermen drive in false killer whales and dolphins as before, but now they set aside the most beautiful ones for sale to aquariumsand to the U.S. Navy and then slaughter the rest.

1993Marine World Africa USA of California is challenged by animal protection groups over the park's import permit for false killer whales from Japan. They cite the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which requires documentation that the marine mammal captures were humanely conducted. The National Marine Fisheries Service denies Marine World's import permit for Japanese-caught false killer whales because, in essence, the park violates the terms of its own import application, and had no observers present to document that the capture was humane. (Letter from NMFS Acting Administrator of Fisheries, Nancy Foster, to Michael D. Demetrios, President of Marine World Africa USA, dated May 7, 1993):

"your application described a seine-net capture method to collect animals swimming past the coastal bays and inlets of the Taiji area. ...The actual location of the capture (Iki Island) and the actual capture method (drive fishery) are not those described in your application. ...You ...also stated that no one associated with Marine World Africa USA was present during the capture of these animals" and thus don't "have the firsthand knowledge necessary to conclude that the capture operation was `humane' and conducted in a manner consistent with that described in your application."

Many public aquaria and marine theme parksas well as the U.S. Navyhad already acquired dolphins and false killer whales from Japan's drive fishery.

1996, October 17Futo, Japan"During October 1996 fishermen and others chased into Futo Fishing Port, on Shizuoka Prefecture's Izu Peninsula, over 200 bottlenose dolphins, a number over three times the allotted quota, and about 50 false killer whales, for which there was no quota at all, and began selling them to aquariums, in addition to slaughtering and butchering [them] for sale as meat. ...Ten aquariums in Shizuoka Prefecture and nearby prefectures were involved in this capture, but only six of those facilities actually received dolphins; ... The order in which aquariums chose dolphins on this occasion was apparently decided by drawing lots, ...the surrounded dolphins were of course in a state of panic, and gradually sustain more injuries in their quest for an escape route because they crash themselves into boat hulls and the wall, become entangled in nets, and scrape their underbellies on the rocky bottom in shallows. Dolphins also collide forcefully with one another as they flee about. ...Because many aquariums were involved, and because they all wanted uninjured females from 1.5 to 2 meters in length, those appearing to be the best were chased around the harbor many times. Owing to this repeated chasing and surrounding with nets, as well as the panic it caused, many dolphins were exhausted and sank to the harbor bottom." Because they had caught more than their permitted quota, the fishermen were required to release 100 of the bottlenose dolphins they had captured. On October 22 and 23, the Futo Branch of the Ito City Fishing Cooperative sold 26 bottlenose dolphins and six false killer whales to aquariums. The aquariums were forced to release these six false killer whales, as there had been no permit to capture them." (The above is from "A Report on the 1996 Dolphin-Catch- Quote Violation at Futo Fishing Harbor," by Sakae Hemmi,Elsa Nature Conservancy, Institute for Environmental Science and Culture.")

February 7, 1997 Taiji, JapanJapanese fishermen capture a pod of killer whales. In all, ten killer whales are rounded up and driven into the shallow water bays of Taiji. Five whales are taken to Japanese marine parks. To date, two of these whales have died a female and her calf. Japanese and international animal groups continue to press for the release of the remaining three whales.

1997 Outstanding Dolphin/Whale Import applications/permits include:
July 16, 1997Sea World Inc. is issued public display import permit for one adult beluga whale from Vancouver Aquarium.

August 14, 1997Dallas World Aquarium, Inc., has applied to import four Amazon River Dolphins from Venezuela, according to the Federal Register. However, it states: "The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has included the species in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals under the category `vulnerable,' i.e., taxa believed likely to move into the endangered category in the near future if causal factors continue operating. population data concerning Inia geoffrensis in Venezuela is limited and the application states that no census has been taken of the subject wild population/stock. Therefore, NMFS has concerns about the status and conservation of the dolphins in the Orinoco river system and the potential impacts of the permanent removal of four sub-adults from this population/stock. Additionally, NMFS is concerned that holding this species in captivity may involved a significant risk to the health and welfare of the animals held. Historically, study results conclude that due to a number of factors this species has fared poorly in captivity in the United States, with an average longevity of 32.6 months for the 35 animals for which data was available." (Source: U.S. Federal Register, August 14, 1997)

home .  viewer discussion .  the debate .  inside seaworld .  interviews .  keiko .  slaughter
other captive orcas .  ted griffin .  navy dolphins .  man & marine mammals .  laws
links .  press reaction .  tapes & transcripts

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

pbs online