A year after activist Ric O’Barry’s efforts to expose the shocking clandestine massacre of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, were chronicled in the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove", the man who once captured and trained dolphins is continuing his crusade to save them from slaughter and captivity — his efforts documented by his filmmaker son Lincoln for a new Animal Planet series, "Blood Dolphins".
Premiering Aug. 27, the series picks up where the film left off with a return to Taiji in September 2009, the O’Barrys armed with cameras and accompanied by reporters from Japanese and world media. Alas, publicity couldn’t change the outcome, but the O’Barrys are encouraged by new developments such as their success in stopping dolphin slaughter in the Solomon Islands, the subject of subsequent episodes. On the eve of the 2010 Taiji dolphin hunt, Ric and Lincoln bring MNN up to date on their activities, goals, and how they plan to achieve them.
MNN: How did the series come about?
Lincoln: I went to Animal Planet because of the success they were having with "Whale Wars". I thought with the combined marketing campaign, we could see an end to these problems in the near future.
Ric: When we said, "Think of 'The Cove' as a pilot for a TV series," they got that right away.
Lincoln: That was the pitch. ‘All you need to know is if there’s a dolphin in trouble anywhere in the world, his phone will ring and we’re off.’ We just heard about two dolphins trapped in Turkey in a swimming pool so this week I’m heading to Turkey. That’s how it happens.
Your return to Taiji in the first episode drew media attention. Has 'The Cove’s release in Japan made a difference?
Lincoln: Yes, it’s doing phenomenal numbers and selling out at every screening. It’s becoming more of a human rights and freedom of speech issue: ‘See the movie they don’t want you to see.’ A lot of young people are seeing the movie and they didn’t grow up eating whale and dolphin. They’re the ones that are going to get behind it.
Ric: Every time we leave, they’re exposed more on an international level. Because of the Internet, they know they’re in the spotlight. The TV series will help even more. What you’ll see in "Blood Dolphins" is real results. In the Solomon Islands, we signed a contract with three chiefs and the dolphin slaughter that went on for 400 years is over. It’s not sustainable, and they admit that. We told them we will support change and alternatives, and that’s what we will do.
Are more episodes in the works?
Lincoln: Yes. It’s not a normal series with a regular production schedule. It takes us more than one trip.
Are you working with any of the same crew and specialized equipment used to secretly film in 'The Cove'?
Lincoln: I assembled my own specialized team of people and we used the latest technologies to get into these places and get it on film. One of them is a childhood friend, Peter Zuccarini. He’s one of the top underwater filmmakers in the world. He’s done all three "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, "Into the Blue", IMAX underwater movies. Depending on the situation, we used different equipment such remote-controlled helicopters.
Ric: He has a plastic water bottle that’s a camera.
Lincoln: I worked with a guy who does hidden cameras for the Department of Defense and the CIA. I asked Fisher Stevens, who was executive producer on "The Cove", to do the narration. He’s got a great voice and he’s quite passionate about it.
What do you hope "Blood Dolphins" will accomplish?
Lincoln: Because of the popularity now of dolphins in captivity, there are so many places in the world where dolphin slaughter and exports are happening. It’s kind of at a tipping point, and I think the added pressure and bringing attention to them can shut down a lot of these things. A lot of aquariums claim education; that they’re letting people know about the plight of dolphins, but you’re to going to see any behaviors that a dolphin would do in the wild.
Ric: They’re not performing circus clowns but they’re not domesticated animals. They are self-aware, with a brain larger than the human brain, and they don’t belong in captivity. The dolphins are not actually owned by the aquariums. All the aquariums have is a permit to display them and the regulation is you can only display them if it’s educational. They’ve bastardized the definition of education. It’s casual amusement and it’s really illegal.
Lincoln: People think dolphins magically appear in the aquarium. It’s a very dirty, ugly business where they come from and we’re going to show that in the series.
Ric: It’s an optical illusion. The dolphin is smiling, the water is turquoise, you have your family with you. Most people don’t get it. "Blood Dolphins" will change that. It’s supply and demand. If people see it, they’ll think twice before they buy a ticket. It has to come from the consumers, not the International Whaling Commission or the government. We’d like to see all dolphin captures stop, and implement birth control for those that can’t be released into the wild. There’s no reason for a dolphin to be born in captivity.
Lincoln: Somebody that sees dolphins in their natural habitat is more likely to protect dolphins and their habitat, which is equally important. We also hope that just like "The Cove", we create a legion of new activists. I hope what people get across from this show is that an individual person can make a difference. My dad has been doing this by himself for so long and now he’s finally getting the accolades. You can actually change things. You can go to www.savejapandolphins.org for more information.
Ric: We want to be put out of business, not needed. That’s the goal.