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.


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 or whatever.

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 disingenuous.


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 program.

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 was legal.

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.


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.


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.


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