Dolphin freedom advocates fined $56,000

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:

KEY WEST––Dolphin Project founder
and former “Flipper” trainer Ric O’Barry and
Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary founder Lloyd Good
III were on June 10 ordered by U.S. Administrative
Law Judge Peter A. Fitzpatrick to pay combined
civil penalties of $59,500 for allegedly illegally
releasing the former U.S. Navy dolphins Buck and
Luther on May 23, 1996, off Key West, Florida.
Luther, apparently hurt in a fight with
other dolphins, was recaptured the next day. Buck
was caught 13 days later, 40 miles away, reportedly
emaciated, also with injuries.
O’Barry and Good deny that the dolphins
were in seriously bad shape when recaptured, and
argue that the release was not illegal because, they
contend, the Marine Mammal Protection Act did not
then specifically require a release permit. It has
since been amended to add such a requirement in
more explicit language. O’Barry and Good have
until July 10 to decide whether to appeal.

In a legally similar case, the Pacific
Whale foundation of Kihei, Hawaii, announced in
early May that it intends to contest charges that it
violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act by
allegedly harassing humpback whales in the course
of doing research without permits which it contends
it either believed it had obtained, or in some cases
believed it did not need. The parallel is not in the
activities of the respective organizations and individuals,
but rather in the apparent challenge to the regulatory
scope of the MMPA as enforced by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Buck and Luther releases came days
after persons unknown released two other dolphins
who had been part of the Sugarloaf rehabilitationfor-release
project in 1994-1995, but were taken to a
holding pen on the Indian River Lagoon by Dolphin
Alliance founder Joe Roberts in August 1995, after
an acrimonious split with O’Barry and Good.
Although Roberts later claimed to have seen them,
those dolphins had no identification markings.
Therefore their fate could never be ascertained.
The fines against O’Barry and Good were
announced just before district court judge Frederick
A. DeFuria ruled in another case resulting from the
Sugarloaf breakup that the 40-year-old retired performing
dolphin Molly is to remain at the Dolphin
Research Center, a swim-with facility in Grassy
Key. Deemed a poor candidate for release because
of her age, Molly was in lifetime care at Sugarloaf
until after the Buck and Luther releases, when she
was confiscated by the National Marine Fisheries
Service and transferred to DRC.
In between, she was claimed by the
Marine Mammal Conservancy, founded by Rick
Trout and Lynn Stringer, who were initially part of
the Sugarloaf project but left in November 1994.
According to Trout, Sugarloaf board members who
foresaw the Sugarloaf collapse in 1995 contractually
transferred all of the dolphins at Sugarloaf to MMC.
The then-board member who drafted the
contract was apparently one “Rick Spill,” then
marine mammal consultant to the Animal Welfare
Institute, whom ANIMAL PEOPLE suspects may
actually have been anti-animal rights attorney and
direct mail fundraiser Bill Wewer.
Wewer formed the National Committee to
Preserve Social Security and Medicare in 1982, but
departed in 1986, with his wife Kathleen Marquardt,
after coming under Congressional investigation for
alleged misleading fundraising.
“Spill” surfaced in 1986, in proximity to
some of Wewer’s political associates.
Wewer re-emerged in 1987, incorporating
the Doris Day Animal League. He also drafted
contracts for the 1990 “March for the Animals” in
Washington D.C.––even as Marquardt formed the
anti-animal rights group Putting People First.
Wewer jumped from DDAL to PPF in early 1990,
and was for a time the most visible PPF spokesperson,
including as a columnist for the now defunct
Fur Age Weekly, but dropped from frequent sight
soon after ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt
Clifton exposed his history in April 1991.
“Spill” resurfaced with AWI in 1993, at
about the same time PPF claimed in correspondence
to represent Norwegian whalers. “Spill” virtually
disappeared in mid-1997, however, soon after
Wewer boasted to ANIMAL PEOPLE via fax that
he had penetrated the animal rights movement under
deep cover, dropping hints to his assumed name.
One of Wewer’s few public appearances
during the years “Spill” was prominent came at a
February 1997 fundraiser for U.S. Representative
Rick Hill (R-Montana).
Subsequent to “Spill” all but vanishing,
Wewer popped back up as attorney for the Ventura
County Humane Society, in southern California.

Commerce Secretary William Daley o n
May 12 named Sebastian O’Kelly, former top aide
to Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio), as Fisheries
Ombudsman, a new position. The Fisheries
Ombudsman is supposed to help broker fishing
industry compliance with conservation restrictions,
including use of Turtle Excluder Devices, catch limits,
and use of gear that harms endangered species
such as North Atlantic right whales, Hawaiian monk
seals, and albatrosses.

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