Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Animal rights activist Richard O'Barry faces Japanese dolphin hunters

Animal rights activist Richard O'Barry confronts Japanese dolphin hunters at a seaport in Taiji, Japan.

TAIJI, JAPAN (SEPTEMBER 2, 2009) YTV - Animal rights activist Richard O'Barry faced Japanese dolphin hunters at a seaport in Japan on Wednesday (September 2), but was quickly shooed away by angry locals.
According to Japanese television station YTV, O'Barry, a former dolphin trainer who trained "Flipper" from the 1960s television series of the same name, was visiting the fishing town to film a new documentary for the Discovery Channel - just in time for the dolphin hunting season that begin in September each year.

For nearly 40 years since a traumatic experience on "Flipper" in which his favorite dolphin died, O'Barry has worked to free these marine mammals and publicise their plight.

Teaming up with conservation organisations, the Earth Island Institute and the Oceanic Preservation Society, he zeroed in on Japan's small coastal town of Taiji, where fishermen ensnare a majority of the dolphins displayed in marine parks to create a documentary called "The Cove."

Following its release in the U.S. this summer, "The Cove" has already been praised by critics and won the audience award at this year's Sundance Film Festival. "Eco-activist documentaries don't get much more compelling than 'The Cove'," said Variety's review.

Beyond objections to the Taiji fishermen's hunting practices, which force the animals into nets, O'Barry suspects the town is concealing unsavory secrets related to the exploitation of dolphins passed over for capture.

With Louie Psihoyos, a veteran National Geographic photographer, scuba diver and first-time filmmaker, O'Barry assembled a crack team of marine specialists, high-tech experts and experienced divers to investigate the fate of dolphins herded into a cove adjacent to the Taiji capture site.

They battle Japanese police and fisherman to gain access to the cove where barbed wire blocks people from filming dolphin killings.

The film also showed hit U.S. TV series "Heroes" star Hayden Panettiere protesting in Taiji.

O'Barry, who has been visiting Taiji several times a year for the past eight years and now wears disguises in the town to avoid the attention of fisherman and the police, predicted the film would have a big impact.