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The "Flipper" guy and the Japanese dolphins

September 15, 2009 | 11:49 am

Dolphin Seventy dolphins' lives spared--nice, but barely a start in a town that slaughters more than 2,000 of the marine mammals each year.

The Japanese town of Taiji released 70 dolphins from its first wave of hunting, which isn't really even what most people would call hunting. The townspeople corral the dolphins and then spear them, then sell the meat.

It's unlikely any dolphins would have been spared had it not been for Ric O'Barry, who once trained dolphins for the TV series "Flipper," and the filmmakers of "The Cove," a new documentary that details O'Barry's 15-year-old crusade against the dolphin slaughter. The decision to release the dolphins came two days after the Times published a story about the killings and the extraordinary efforts by the filmmakers to catch footage of the carnage. The people of Taiki don't care enough about the ugliness of their commercial enterprise to end it, but they do care enough to hide it zealously from the outside world.

Japan has been a problematic member of the International Whaling Commission, continuing its killing of whales for what it calls "scientific" purposes only, though somehow the whale meat keeps ending up in eateries that bear no relationship to a laboratory.

This isn't the ancient subsistence whaling still practiced by some Inuit, but large-scale commercial whaling, Town leaders say they're uncertain whether the hunt will continue. Chances are their own country will do little or nothing to stop them. Sometimes, it takes world outrage to get a village to save a dolphin.

Photo of aquarium dolphins. Credit: Rob Carr / AP

--Karin Klein


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