The president of the Vancouver Aquarium says he’s not worried that a soon-to-be-released documentary about dolphins will undermine public support for his facility. In a phone interview with the Straight, John Nightingale said the makers of The Cove want to end the Japanese “drive fishery” in the town of Taiji. This involves forcing dolphins into a small cove, where they’re slaughtered.
“The film itself, its main goal is to do what it can to end the drive fishery,” Nightingale said, noting that he also supports ending this fishery.
A central figure in the film is American anticaptivity activist Ric O’Barry, who visited Vancouver in 2003 and urged the park board not to allow dolphins to be kept in Stanley Park. The commissioners didn’t heed his message. “This industry has got so much power, they have been able to brainwash the public with their advertising dollars for the last 40 years so that people think dolphins belong in concrete tanks doing stupid dolphin tricks,” O’Barry said.
The aquarium has three Pacific white-sided dolphins that were imported from Japan: Spinnaker, Hana, and Helen. It also has a B.C. harbour porpoise named Daisy.
O’Barry said he is employed by the California-based Earth Island Institute. Its associate director, Mark Berman, told the Straight in a phone interview that aquariums shouldn’t buy dolphins from Japan because all of its aquariums have links to Taiji, where, according to O’Barry and others, 23,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed each year. “Any foreign aquarium that’s buying from them is indirectly rewarding these same people in Taiji who are doing the slaughter,” Berman said.
Nightingale said the institute’s view is mistaken because Pacific white-sided dolphins are almost never caught in the drive fishery. “It shows a lack of knowledge about the way things work, the way governance works, the way permits work, and even the way the drive fishery works,” he said. “If white-sided dolphins are not being taken in the drive fishery, there is no even indirect possible connection.”
Nightingale said that all three dolphins came from a fixed-net fishery and not from a drive fishery. Berman said that even if this were the case, the dolphins should have been released rather than kept in captivity.