One year ago when animal rights activist Ric O’Barry made the academy award winning documentary “The Cove” he assumed the international spotlight would finally put an end to dolphin hunting. Much to his dismay the hunt continues and he uses his new series on Animal Planet “Blood Dolphins” to show the world that the massacre has not ceased.The Cove was a documentary about the tiny town of Taiji Japan where thousands of dolphins have been captured for the lucrative dolphin show industry that is propped up mostly by Sea World and the multi-million dollar industry that they have created through their aquatic themed parks. The dolphins who don’t meet typical all-gray smiling profiles of the classic “flipper” are rounded up and harpooned for dolphin meat which is usually sold by unscrupulous grocers as whale meat.
This is where O’Barry came in, Ric O’Barry is best known for his work on the TV show Flipper where he himself captured and trained several dolphins who played the lead. His role in portraying these mammals as domesticated pets played a major role in the creation of the dolphin show industry. Late in his training career Ric was faced with an eye-opening disaster when Kathy the main dolphin who portrayed Flipper died as a result of the depression of being captive. Immediately after Kathy’s death Ric freed his first dolphin that was being held in a pen in Bimini. Shortly after O’Barry founded the Dolphin Project on the very first Earth Day in 1970. He has since dedicated his life to freeing dolphins and stopping the dolphin killing machine that he helped create.
The program revolves around Ric and his son Lincoln exposing the horrible trade of wild dolphins and at times attempting to liberate them from the bleak fate that awaits them. In the first episode Ric O’Barry returned to Taiji to prove that the killing of innocent dolphins has continued despite the media attention both internationally and in Japan. The small fishing community that runs the industry is regularly combative with Ric, Lincoln and crew despite the fact that the killings are completely legal in Japan and that the slaughter takes place in a national park where the public is free to roam and film. They are regularly followed by police and members of the fishing community while traveling in Taiji and so the majority of the filming must be done covertly relying on the know how and technology used by special effects artists and military alike.
Despite the horror of the projected 23,000 dolphins killed each year in Japan another fear looms as dolphin meat has been proven to contain almost a hundred times the recommended levels of mercury in seafood set by the World Health Organization. Consumers in Japan who think they are serving whale meat to their families can actually be slowly poisoning them. It was even proposed that dolphin meat could enter the regular rotation in local school lunch menus which can have profound effects on generations of Japanese to come. So not only are these fisherman killing tens of thousands of dolphins a year they could in effect be killing their very own children if this is not stopped.
Fans of Animal Planet’s other vigilante themed show Whale Wars will not be disappointed as Ric O’Barry has worked with Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd organization closely for years and the two have adopted many of each other’s attitudes about what has to be done to save our seas with or without the help of governments or local authorities. So if you are a fan of dolphins, animals in general or just plain vigilante justice stay tuned to Animal Planet to see the series unfold.
Blood Dolphins airs every Friday at 9:00est on Animal Planet.