Humans, whales, and the ghosts of high seas drifters

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  July/August 2003:

The Whaling Season:  An Inside Account of the
Struggle to Stop Commercial Whaling,  by Kieran
Island Press (1718 Connecticut Ave.,  NW,  Suite
300,  Washington,  DC  20009),  2003.  349 pages,
hardcover.  $26.00.

Between Species:  Celebrating the Dolphin-Human
Bond,  edited by Toni Frohoff & Brenda Peterson
Sierra Club Books (85 Second St.,  San Francisco,
CA  94105),  2003. 361 pages,  hardcover.  $24.95.

From the title,  and from the longtime
role of author Kieran Mulvaney as the main
Greenpeace media liaison at annual meetings of
the International Whaling Commission,  one might
guess that The Whaling Season:  An Inside Account
of the Struggle to Stop Commercial Whaling is an
exposé or defense of backroom politics.

Parts of it do summarize the headline
events at IWC meetings since 1987,  the most
recent meeting excepted because The Whaling
Season was released to coincide with the start of
it.  Most of the book,  however,  is about
Mulvaney’s four voyages to confront the Japanese
whaling fleet in Antarctic waters–first to
publicize the1994 effort to establish the
Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary and then to
protest against continued Japanese “research”
whaling inside the sanctuary boundaries.
Some of Mulvaney’s perspective can be
disputed.  In particular,  he underestimates the
extent to which former U.S. Vice President Al
Gore was willing to trade concessions on whaling
in 1994 in order to secure a $625 million missile
sale to Norway.  The deal that Greenpeace and
other major conservation groups eventually struck
was in effect the unenforced designation of the
Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary in trade for
acceptance of a protocol for eventually lifting
the global whaling moratorium if the IWC
Scientific Committee ever agrees that whale
numbers have adequately recovered.  What
Greenpeace et al might have gotten,  without the
intervention of many smaller groups,  was the
protocol without the sanctuary.
Political debate aside,  Mulvaney is very
well informed about whaling,  and spins an
entertaining sea story.
Japanese whaling in the Antarctic only
began in 1934,  Mulvaney points out–30 years
after Britain and Norway established permanent
Antarctic whaling stations.
Japanese Antarctic whaling “was revived
after World War II,”  Mulvaney writes,  “only
under instructions from [occupying U.S.] General
Douglas MacArthur,  who considered it necessary
to provide protein for the defeated nation (and
not coincidentally,  oil for its conqueror).
“That most of the effort to end
commercial whaling in the late 20th and early
21st centuries is directed at Japan,”  Mulvaney
continues,  “is an accident of history and
economics:  whereas the likes of the Norwegian,
British,  and Dutch whaling industries relied
almost exclusively on whale oil for their income,
the Japanese also marketed the meat,  and as a
result were able to continue squeezing profit out
of a dying industry.”
The pro-whaling faction within the IWC
today consists of Japan,  Norway,  and a
constellation of small nations receiving Japanese
aid,  plus Iceland,  which in October 2002 was
allowed to rejoin after resigning 10 years
Iceland fisheries minister Arni
Matthiesen announced in April 2003 that the
Icelandic fleet plans to kill 100 minke whales,
100 fin whales,  and 50 sei whales in 2003-2004,
for Japanese-style “research.”  The Iceland
Tourist Industry Association,  serving about
90,000 whale-watchers per year,  registered an
immediate protest.
Even with Icelandic support,  the
pro-whalers were unable to obstruct passage this
year of a resolution making whale conservation as
well as regulation of whaling an official main
purpose of the IWC.  A motion to designate a
South Pacific Whale Sanctuary received majority
support,  24-17,  but needed 75% approval in
order to pass.
The political alignment of the IWC was
very different when it was formed.
“Norway,  the pioneer and at that time
the most prominent practicioner of modern
industrial whaling,  was the first to take steps
to bring it under control,”  Mulvaney explains.
“In 1929 its parliament passed the Norwegian
Whaling Act.  A landmark piece of legislation and
the first law to control whaling on the high
seas,  it prohibited killing right whales,
calves of any species,  and females with calves
in attendance;  established minimum lengths for
all species below which whales could not be
killed;  required all factory ships to keep
records and carry observers;  encouraged the full
use of whale carcasses;  formed a bureau for
collecting whale statistics;  and created a role
for scientists in the formation of whaling
The Norwegian law was the direct
antecedent to the international meetings in 1934,
1937,  and 1946 that eventually established the
IWC in present form.
Norwegian politicians in that era could
afford to oppose whaling because coastal
communities were at a peak of prosperity.  The
subsequent decline of the North Sea cod stock
brought revived interest in whaling, chiefly
because Norwegian fishers,  like their Japanese
counterparts,  prefer to blame the recovery of
minke whales rather than overfishing for the
scarcity of cod.
Although Norway complied with the 1986
global moratorium on commercial whaling,  it
unilaterally reopened minke whaling in coastal
waters in 1993.
Like Atlantic Canadian fishers,  who
blame seals for the collapse of the Grand Banks
cod stock,  the Norwegian fishers pretended at
first that they were massacring marine mammals
for the carcass value.  That was belied in July
2002 when whaling was halted in at least three
communities before the minke quota was even half
exhausted because the government was out of
storage space for a multi-year accumulation of
unsold remains.
Further defying the IWC,  Norway sold
sold some whale meat and blubber to Japan,  but
Japanese demand fell after reports circulated
that the Norwegian whales contained high levels
of mercury and PCBs,  a carcinogenic industrial
In November 2002 Norway acknowledged
discarding the meat from approximately 10-15
whales,  but raised the 2003 whaling quota to
711,  from 634 in 2002.

Watson & O’Barry

Though willing to acknowledge the onetime
leadership of Norway in restraining commercial
whaling,  Mulvaney omits even transient mention
of Paul Watson,  the Greenpeace cofounder who
pioneered the confrontational anti-whaling
tactics for which the organization became best
known.  Watson left Greenpeace in 1977 to form
the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and steer
an even more aggressively confrontational course
against whaling,  sealing,  driftnetting,  and
other exploitation of marine life on the high
Mulvaney did not even join Greenpeace
until 1989,  two years after he helped to found
the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society with
encouragement from Bill Jordan of Care For The
Wild,  but the lingering bitterness between
Watson and his Greenpeace successors runs deep.
Though Mulvaney is no longer formally
employed by Greenpeace,  he left on good terms.
Though he portrays himself in The Whaling Season
as a high-seas adventurer,  he acknowledges that
most of his Greenpeace work involved public
relations.  A writer by trade and talent,  he is
a diplomat by nature,  and diplomacy at
Greenpeace tends to include pretending that
Watson never existed.
Omission of even one word about
protypical anti-cetacean captivity campaigner Ric
O’Barry comparably mars Between Species,  a
collection of essays against captivity whose 37
contributing authors include a small army of
people whom O’Barry at some point significantly
helped.  The first of them was the late John
Lilly,  the original dolphin intelligence
researcher.  No living activist or dolphin
scientist spoke out for dolphins before O’Barry
did,  and O’Barry was actually involved–albeit
then on the captivity side of the issue–in the
first anti-captivity protests on record,  in 1962.
On Earth Day 1970 O’Barry made his first
attempt to free a captive dolphin.

Dolphin swims

Marine mammal captivity is an obvious
target for animal advocates,  because the animals
on display lead such self-evidently circumscribed
lives,  while their deaths or disappearance tends
to attract quick public notice.
Swim-with-dolphins facilities compound the
stresses of captivity by subjecting the animals
to territorial invasion,  within their already
severely limited space.
Fortunately most of the intrusions do not
result in anyone getting hurt.  But there are
exceptions.  Former Inside Edition and American
Journal TV news magazine host Nancy Glass in
December 2002 sued the Dolphin Encounters resort
in Nassau,  a Florida affiliate,  and a travel
agency over injuries suffered when a 500-pound
dolphin leaped,  fell short,  and landed on her.
In June 2003 a 37-year-old woman sued a hotel
dolphin show and swim-with in Wakayama
Prefecture,  Japan,  over a broken back she
received in a similar incident.
“People would never throw their child in
with a strange dog,” dolphin therapy pioneer
Betsy Smith marveled to Between Species co-editor
Toni Frohoff,   “but will throw the child in with
a strange dolphin.”
Whether the contact does anything positive for
dolphins either individually or collectively is
an often debated point.  Smith abandoned dolphin
therapy because she concluded that it was not
“After years of watching these programs,
to me they look like little more than glorified
petting zoos,”  Frohoff writes,  “using dolphins
instead of barnyard animals.  I doubt that most
people will be any more inspired to work for
marine mammal protection after participating than
people will become vegetarians after visiting a
petting zoo.”
Yet thousands of people have become
vegetarians after becoming personally acquainted
with cattle,  pigs,  and chickens.  The Farm
Sanctuary facility near Watkins Glen,  New York,
inspired the local Burger King to begin offering
vegetarian burgers 10 years before they were
introduced nationally.  Most farm animal
sanctuaries include promoting vegetarianism as
part of their mission– and most make direct
contact with the animals central to visitors’
Humane Society of the U.S. marine
mammalogist Naomi Rose asserts in Between Species
that she sees “no evidence that the millions of
people who visit marine parks every year are any
better educated about conservation,  or any more
aware of environmental issues,  than those who do
not visit them.  I certainly see no evidence,”
Rose says,  “that they are doing more for
On the other hand,  there was no visible
public concern for wild cetaceans before the
proliferation of marine mammal exhibition sites
in the 1950s and 1960s.
There was not even the hint of a “Save
the whales” movement until after the success of
the Flipper movie and TV series,  filmed at the
Miami Seaquarium.  Public recognition of cetacean
intelligence followed the 1973 release of The Day
of The Dolphin,  inspired by the work of John
Lilly and filmed at Marineland of Florida.
Free Willy! (1993),  filmed at El Reino
Aventura in Mexico City,  sparked the rise of
cetacean freedom as a cause celebre 23 years
after Ric O’Barry first tried to free a
dolphin–and succeeded after millions of
Ameri-cans had already developed awareness of the
limitations of catacean captivity by first
visiting captive exhibition sites,  then engaging
in ocean-going whalewatching.
While the educational role of marine
mammal parks has diminished relative to
ocean-going whalewatching, it is only fair to
note that there was no ocean-going whalewatching
until more than 20 years after the opening of the
first-generation California and Florida marine
mammal parks.
As many as 11 million people per year now
participate in ocean-going whalewatching
worldwide,  according to the International Fund
for Animal Welfare.  Yet the three Sea World
facilities in Orlando,  San Antonio,  and San
Diego together attract about the same number–and
this is probably much less than half of the total
number of visitors to all marine mammal parks.
Of note is that ocean-going observation
of whales and other sea life is not completely
benign either,  and if improperly conducted can
harm many more animals than capture for
exhibition.  An increasing body of research
indicates that the constant presence of
whale-watching vessels has driven many marine
mammal populations farther out to sea,  away from
some of their best feeding areas.
U.S. and Canadian regulatory agencies
have recently pursued more aggressive efforts to
protect wild marine mammals from intrusive
observers,  but with mixed results.
On June 19,  for example,  Hawaii Second
Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza dismissed 33 state
charges pending since 1998 against the Pacific
Whale Foundation for allegedly approaching whales
too closely without possessing a valid research
permit.  Cardona held that the alleged
infractions occurred beyond state jurisdiction.
Remaining to be heard are 58 similar federal
Also on June 19,  the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration fined the Pelagic
Shark Research Foundation,  of Santa Cruz,
California,   $21,000 for “allegedly enticing a
white shark to attack a Hollywood mock-up of a
south African fur seal as part of a cable TV
production,”  reported Don Thompson of Associated
In Duncan,  British Columbia,
whalewatching guide Jim Maya,  63,  on June 23
went to trial for allegedly approaching orcas too
closely twice in August 2002.

O’Barry today

The major practical problem ahead of
cetacean captivity opponents is neither finding
ways and means to free dolphins,  nor ending
Dolphin releases help some individual
animals,  and capture the public imagination,
but even if every wild-caught dolphin was
released tomorrow,  there would still be enough
dolphins who have been born in captivity to keep
the major marine mammal parks in business,  along
with enough need to take in stranding victims to
maintain genetic diversity among the captive
Ending all captivity within the
foreseeable future is accordingly unlikely–but
wild captures for exhibition can be ended,  if
the explosive global growth of swim-with,
especially abroad,  can be restrained by
convincing the fascinated public to stop
literally loving dolphins to death.
Thus the other Between Species co-editor,
Brenda Peterson,  sets a meaningful example with
her prefatory essay about giving up swimming with
dolphins at a captive venue.  It is the same
essay with which she opened Build Me An Ark,  her
2001 volume exploring the moral relationship of
humans and animals.
The realizations Peterson reached in
coming to her decision were the same that Ric
O’Barry reached in leaving marine mammal
exhibition,  when Peterson was in her teens.  She
is now 53,  about the average age of the Between
Species contributors.
This is quite old enough to have the
grace to acknowledge the gent who was and is John
Brown to their abolitionist crusade.
Now employed by the World Society for the
Protection of Animals,  O’Barry e-mailed to
ANIMAL PEOPLE on the day that this revew was
written on behalf of “dozens of dolphins captured
and confined in small pens by local fishers in
the Solomon Islands,  north of Australia,”  while
the national government was paralyzed by civil
strife which was iminently expected to bring an
armed occupation of the Solomons by the
Australian military.
“Countless dolphins have been taken in
the last few weeks,”  O’Barry wrote,
paraphrasing an expose by Craig Skehan of the
Melbourne Age,  “as the result of a $400 bounty
placed on their heads by a foreign business
group.  The syndicate is rumored to be collecting
and training them for shipment overseas.  At
least 60 animals are currently held on the island
of Gela,”  O’Barry said,  “and locals say that
dozens more are confined in other locations.
Media accounts tell of inexperienced fishers
literally ripping animals from the water.  Many
of the dolphins captured must travel for hours by
open boat to reach the holding pens. For
water-borne creatures, the long ride is
excruciating, as their internal organs are slowly
crushed by their immense weight.
“One captured dolphin has already been
killed by a crocodile,”  O’Barry continued.
“Another thing to consider is that it takes
thousands of pounds of fish–per day–to feed so
many dolphins. Either the dolphins are going
hungry,  which I suspect is happening anyway in
this chaotic environment,  or the Solomons are
strip-mining their seas.”
The captures in the Solomons followed the
April 27 illegal capture of five bottlenose
dolphins including a mother-and-calf by two
Spaniards near Palmarin,  Senegal,  Africa,  for
sale to an unknown foreign customer.  Three
dolphins died,  including the mother of the calf.
Among his other recent campaigns,
O’Barry on August 23,  2002 released Nica and
Bluefield,  “two dolphins who were captured for a
dolphin-assisted therapy program in Nicaragua,”
he wrote.
Earlier O’Barry released two dolphins who were held in Guatemala.
“More important than freeing the
dolphins,”  O’Barry added,  “we are getting
legislation passed in those two nations and Costa
Rica to make sure that such captures never happen
In February 2003 O’Barry confirmed the
Nicaraguan ban on dolphin captures and announced
the introduction of a bill to ban captures in
Panama.  He further reported progress toward
obtaining a ban on dolphin capture in the
Dominican Republic.
There,  wrote Canadian anti-captivity
activist Gwen McKenna on behalf of O’Barry,  “In
July 2002 the Manati Park swim-with facility in
Punta Cana used a permit issued in 1995 to
capture eight bottlenose dolphins in a protected
national park.”
Despite O’Barry’s efforts,  the swim-with
industry continues rapid expansion.
In September 2002,  for example,  McKenna
reported the opening of new swim-withs on
Anguilla and Antiqua by a company called Dolphin
“Dolphin Fantaseas persuaded the
government of Antigua to grant them a permit to
capture ‘up to 12 dolphins annually from Antiguan
waters in the event that the current sources of
supply are unable to provide this number of
animals per year,’  and a permit to export these
dolphins,”  McKenna wrote.
According to Helene O’Barry,  wife of Ric
O’Barry,  Dolphin Fantaseas started in 1988 with
six dolphins imported from Cuba.
On May 28,  2003,  the development firm
Kerzner International announced plans to build a
swim-with as part of a $600 million expansion of
the Atlantis Resort at Paradise Island,  the
Bahamas–near the scene of O’Barry’s first
attempted dolphin release.
At least one recently opened swim-with is
apparently no longer operating.  In 2001 the
Prospect Reef Resort on Tortola obtained four
dolphins from the Florida swim-with Dolphins
Plus.  Considering the water quality a threat to
the health of the dolphins,  Dolphins Plus in
October 2002 transferred them to a hotel on
But while Prospect Reef discontinued
promoting swim-with,  McKenna said,  the Dominica
site is doing so well that it has added several
dolphins obtained from Dolphin Discovery Mexico.
“There are four captive dolphin proposals
on the table in the Caymans,”  McKenna added,
“and Jamaica has plans to open yet another
captive dolphin facility.  There is already one
facility on the island.”
The potential profits have even attracted
the interest of the Virginia Marine Science
Museum,  in Richmond,  Virginia.  Having no
dolphins,  the museum on June 27,  2003 announced
that on July 14 it would begin offering
swim-with-seals sessions at $110 for members and
$125 for others.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.