interviewInterview with John Hall



So that meant Iceland was, was once again on the front and only burner as a source for killer whales. So in, in the meantime they had a fair number of whales but they were trying to build up their, their stocks, of false killer whales, pseudorca from Japan, and they, concurrently with Iceland, they had a program that they were involved in at Iki Island with the drive fisheries where they would contract with a local fisherman to drive dolphins and small whales into the bay; they'd pick out the ones they wanted for captivity and then the rest would be slaughtered.

Q: What year?

They began setting it up in the late 70s. I mean it, it was almost as if there was a genesis after Puget Sound that, that they really got crunched in Puget Sound and, and by golly, we needed to you know, get a steady supply of whatever we need set up. Killer whales and other big demonstrative dynamic animals like false killer whales, you know, with the same teeth as a killer whale-- those were really in demand.

So it was my impression, and I talked to Goldsberry about this directly, that he set it up, an original trip to the Iki Peninsula with Dr. Tobiyama from Kamogawa Sea World. They had been cohorts and colleagues for a long time. I don't know how long, but for a number of years. And then in cooperation with the fishermen's cooperative at Iki Island they reinitiated the drive fisheries; instead of just driving the animals onto the beach to slaughter them as had been the case in the past, now the emphasis was to drive them into a bay, allow...... to get the ones they wanted, pay for them, and then the fisherman would slaughter the rest.

So simultaneously with Iceland developing, there was this concurrent effort in Iki Island. Simultaneously there was an effort to develop a collecting capability in Patagonia in Southern Chile for the wonderful little black and white dolphins that are like miniature killer whales with the negative image, where killer whales are white, these are black and the reverse. They're extremely striking charismatic little animals.

Q: This was all funded by Sea World?

Absolutely. In Iceland, the activity that I was involved with peripherally occurred in 1987. We were in the final stages of developing the pond inlet in our wall program, and in the middle of a meeting with Lanny Cornell and myself and Don Goldsberry and Jim Antrim I don't recall if anyone else was there, there may have been one or two other people there. And we were discussing a program and we were waiting for a phone call, a confirmation phone call to come in, when Goldsberry pulled out these blueprints during this break in the middle of the meeting. And he said while we've got a few minutes, Lanny, would you go over these drawings with me.

And it turned out that they were blueprints of the oceanarium just outside of Reykjavik in Iceland and the open air pool, if you will, in Sadenspherder [?]. And they went through, you know, Lanny marked up the blueprints--'no, I want this door here, and

I want this opening in the roof here, and I want it this, this long and this wide, and that sort of thing, and I don't want to spend more than I think it was a 150 thousand dollars on this construction program. And this is okay, get some pumps to bring some water in for this outside pool where we'll hold the animals short term.' And, then turned to me and said you didn't see any of this, you didn't hear any of this, you weren't here.

Q: Who said that to you?

Lanny. And so I said okay, I wasn't here, I didn't see any of it. So it was clear that they were investing a substantial amount of money in facilities and logistics in Iceland in 87, to be able to upgrade the facilities to continue to take killer whales out of Icelandic waters.

Q: There's a fisherman in Iceland who said something changed in 84.

I don't know what he's referring to. But what we know has changed was the political climate in Alaska. Maybe they were getting ready to phase out of Iceland and go to Alaska because it was in U.S. waters. I don't know, but certainly by May or June of 84, Alaska is a done deal. It was history. It was a cinder as far as Sea World ever getting killer whales out of there. All the bridges were charred.

Q: So you're saying that they may have turned to Iceland at that point?

Turned back to Iceland because they had been getting whales out of Iceland since the late 70s. There may have been some, political climate that changed in Iceland in 84, or even earlier, and that's why they were looking so strongly at Alaska. I don't know, I'm not privy to the information.

Q: But in any case they did then focus on Iceland.

After 84, absolutely. Absolutely.

Q: And how did that work getting whales out of Iceland?

Typically they would send an advance to Iceland to deal with the Icelandic government to get capture permits. And from I think '82 on, all the whales came out of Sadesfure which is a large fjord on the eastern side of Iceland. And they always used the herring persainer Gudrun, as the capture vessel and her crew. And they would go to Iceland typically in September and the whale season would last pretty much through October...which coincided with the inshore movement of the herring. And so with Icelandic permits in hand they would go out and catch whales.

Now there were times according to Antrim and, and Goldsberry, when they had Icelandic permits, but couldn't find whales in close, inside Icelandic territorial waters, so they had to go quite a ways off shore in order to find the whales and capture them. So under those conditions they were capturing whales on the high seas where it's my understanding they should have had U.S. permits to do so. And, it's also my understanding they did not have U.S permits in hand. They may have begun the application process, but it was my understanding they didn't have permits in hand and they would then catch those whales and bring them back into Iceland and suggest that they had caught them inside Icelandic waters so their Icelandic permits were valid.

Q: Who were the personnel that went out typically on these missions?

Well, it was always Goldsberry and Antrim. They were always involved..... the Icelandic contact that I never met but I knew his name a lot, was Helgi Helgensen. And then once they caught the animals they would hold them in Iceland for a little bit of time. Days, weeks, maybe a month or so, and then they'd ship them to another country. Holland was a favorite. The Dolfinarium at Harderwijk. And I know that the former corporate head of training told me that he spent a number of months in Harderwijk taking care of newly-caught Sea World whales. Glen Young told me he was there in Hardivick, so they kept animals there, they kept animals at Niagara Falls at Marine Land in Canada. It's my understanding that in the late '70s or early '80s, they may well have kept animals at Kamogawa Sea World in Japan. I don't have any documentation on that. Nobody has come to me and said yes, I was there and we moved the animals to Kamogawa, but it's my understanding that that was the case.

Q; How and why did Sea World take animals out of the water and put them in aquaria around the world?

Because they didn't have permits, U.S. permits that would allow them to import them into the U.S. So they needed to go through the permit importation process or application for importation process before it would be legal to bring those animals into the country. Otherwise the fishery service would confiscate the animals.

Q: Are you saying that there's a finite window each year in which you could do this fishing in Iceland? And that you needed to get as many as possible during that time?

I wouldn't say as many as possible. There was a finite window, generally September and October when the herring moved inshore and the whales followed the herring, and logistically it was relatively easy to catch the whales. And the number you caught would depend upon Icelandic permits, however many they would allow you to take and your needs at the time. How many holes did you have in pools to fill with whales.

Q: But then, if you didn't have American permits...

Then you had to stash them somewhere while you went through the process of applying for permits to import all ready captive whales.

Q: So, can you sum all of this up?

. I mean the whole reason to move them to a third country, from Iceland to Canada or Holland, before they came to the U.S. was to give Sea World time to apply for U.S. permits to import the animals as already captive whales. They would suggest that these whales had been captured by someone and were being held in these aquaria and they were either going to buy them and transfer them to their much better facilities, or they were going to do some kind of a breeding loan and bring them in on a breeding loan into their much better facilities, much larger, much more modern facilities. But the reality was that Sea World caught them in the first place. So they knew exactly who had caught them, when and where.

Q: Now how do you know that happened?

It was common knowledge but I had the opportunity on separate occasions to have both Jim Antrim and Don Goldsberry on the boat that I was running in Alaska -- using to continue the killer whale photo identification research with. And they were out with me for 10 days to two weeks. And Dave Butcher was with me on one trip. Glen Young was with me on another trip. So in two weeks, I mean it was a very simple thing to just kind of gently ask the question of gee, did you spend, did you have to spend any time in Harderwijk and out would come the story. Or have you been to Iki? Or were you involved in moving animals to Marine Land, is that a tough thing to do at night? I mean out would come the stories. And those were four principals that were involved for a number of years.

Q: What about Lanny?

Well, Lanny ran the show. I mean everybody there knew that Lanny absolutely ran the show. He's, in my opinion, an extremely good clinical veterinarian. But he's a real, --I shouldn't say "but"--and he is a very much top down guy. I mean from a management style, you know, it's a consensus of one, Lanny say, we do. So anything that happened, and I mean almost down to a gnat's eyelash, anything that happened was authorized and approved and in many cases thought up by Lanny. If you wanted to stay with the park, with the Sea World system, you either got in that mode of operation or you did something else with your life.

Q: So, reference to this system of taking Icelandic whales and putting them in parks around the world, what was Lanny's role within that?

Well, Lanny directed where it was all going to happen, the dates, the timing, who was involved. He was very careful never to be involved in the field himself.

Q: Briefly can you tell me about the Iki Island and the involvement of Sea World...and the source of animals being the drive fishery?

Well, it's my impression, having talked again to Goldsberry and Antrim and a number of people who have been to Iki for or on behalf of Sea World including Brad Andrews, the current zoological director, 'cause Brad went the spring of '87, that Sea World thought it might as well draw upon the capabilities of the Iki Island fishermen, this drive fishery as a source of animals, especially as a source of false killer whales. So Goldsberry set up the relationship with the Japanese fishermen's cooperative, and the fishermen would, under the normal operations of fishing, would watch for the migration in the late winter of these false killer whales coming north in the Sea of Japan.

And, when they would see them, they would then get this group of 20 or 30 boats, they'd get a semi-circle formed behind the animal, they put a pipe in the water over the side on a rope, and they beat on the pipe, and it's like an underwater gong, and it sets up kind of a curtain of sound, and they would very slowly drive the animals into a bay where they would net the animals off. And they might have 50 animals or they might have 500 animals. And typically it wasn't a single species school of false killer whales. It would be a mixed school of... Risso's dolphins, of bottlenose dolphins, of false killer whales, and maybe some others thrown in.

And then Sea World typically, first--it was my impression they initiated this whole thing--would come in, and pick out the best-looking animals, the right-sized animals for their own parks, and they would hold them in another netted pin. And it was my understanding they were buying the whales for about $2,500 apiece. And then other oceanaria, Hong Kong Aquarium, and other oceanaria would come in and they would buy other animals that they needed. And then after all the animals had been purchased that were going to captivity, the fishermen would drive the rest of the animals on the beach and slaughter them.

And so it culminated a few years ago with Marine World Africa USA applying for a permit to import these false killer whales claiming it was a rescue operation--that had been the device that people had used for several years--was that 'we really don't have anything to do with this but these animals are going to be killed anyway, it's better for us to rescue a few

for our concrete tanks than to have them all die.' When in reality, based upon what I was told, the oceanaria were stimulating the drives as a collecting mechanism in the first place.

I recall, oh my goodness, it had to be back in the early '60s, there was a Life Magazine spread of a drive fishery, and the bay at Iki was completely red. And there was worldwide outrage over that. And it kind of died down. But it was well known that drive fisheries did occur, that the Japanese fishermen really knew what they were doing, how to move animals onshore, and it seemed like an opportunity to be able to collect animals that you wanted and allow the fishermen to kill the rest.

Q: So to your knowledge, did Sea World cause an increase in the number of drive fishing expeditions?

I don't think so. Because of the bad pr that Japan received internationally from the earlier drive fisheries and like the spread in Life Magazine, there was a strong pressure by the Japanese government to just chill for a while. And that may well have gone on for a long period of time if aquaria like Sea World hadn't come in and said well, we understand that, but you know, we need a few animals and you know, we're not looking to slaughter a thousand or three thousand, just a few of these specific animals is what we're looking for.

Q: And going back to Keiko? What do you think might happen?

I think it's going well. I'm not involved. We assisted in the early design work with with the pool to try and provide some design elements. Hopefully to quiet the pool down. It's my impression having made recordings and done the sound analysis on the noise production in pools, concrete tanks, that they tend to be extremely noisy. Perhaps anywhere from eight to several thousand times louder than the ocean in the same frequency bands.

And so we made some suggestions with regard to how the Oregon Coast Aquarium facility for Keiko might be designed to be quieter. And then they asked us to come up as independent consultants and make recordings and do the analysis. And it turns out....verall it's much, much quieter. By far the dominant noise in the pool is sixty cycle or sixty hertz, which is from lights and pumps. And is way, way below anything that Keiko could hear.

Having been involved in two dolphin reintroduction projects in the last two years--one in Florida and one in Colombia-- I'm convinced that obviously the animal has to be healthy, be a viable candidate, it's gotta be healthy. And I'm no vet, so I can't tell you what standards have to be met to be healthy enough. But obviously the animal has to be healthy, there has to be essentially no potential for transfer of disease from the animal that's going to be reintroduced to the wild population.

The other way around is kind of, tough luck. You know, if the reintroduced animal gets sick from something out in the wild, well, that's the way anybody else will. The argument has been made, well, they're--animals are better off in captivity because they don't get any worms, they don't get parasites. That's true, but that's pretty much true of people in prison, too. You know? So I mean, that is a specious argument to me.

To me the overwhelming requirement is that the animal demonstrate an ability to feed itself. Absolutely nutritionally independent. That you put enough live fish, the right size, the right kinds, and the animal is able to feed itself routinely, over and over. That it can ferret them out of corral foundation or coral reefs or--or out of the sand, or whatever happens to be natural feeding behavior

Q: What do you think is the future of projects like this?

They're very expensive. Even in Columbia where we had--much lower expenses because personnel were much less expensive than in the United States. The project still ran 10,000 dollars a month. You know, you can buy two or three bolts off of a new fighter for 10,000 dollars. they're very expensive. I think they can work,--but

the reintroduction project is really only halfway through, when the animals are released. It's not the end point. It's at most, halfway, and that's a very difficult thing from an emotional standpoint to get across to people because people think, you know, when the gate is opened or when the walls come down that--that's it. But it's not. Not if you're going to document that these animals either lived or died. That's really only the halfway point. And that's a tough thing to get across.

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