Shallow Water. Deep Secret.
When the TV show Flipper aired in the 1960s, a show starring dolphins trained by Ric O’Barry, he became the most famous dolphin trainer in the world. The show was an endearing account of the beautiful relationship between a young boy and his pet dolphin. O’Barry personally helped catch and train the dolphins that starred in the show. By the time the series ended about three years later, O’Barry had a huge change of heart after coming to the realization that these beautiful creatures are not meant for captivity. Since then, he has dedicated himself to serve as an advocate for dolphins worldwide.
To be able to understand why captivity doesn’t work for dolphins, you would have to see them in the wild. They travel long distances everyday, sometimes up to 40 miles. So being confined in a concrete pool is stressful and depressing. Also, their primary sense is acoustic. This means that they’re very sensitive to sound. Imagine what a full stadium of screaming fans does to them.
O’Barry made a gruesome discovery in Taiji, a little town in Japan with a big secret. It’s the largest supplier of dolphins to marine parks and ‘Swim with Dolphins’ programs all around the world. Each dolphin can sell for $150,000. The Whale Museum in Taiji brokers the deals and the town shares the profits. If you don’t know what’s really going on, a visit to this place might lead you to believe that it’s a place where people really love dolphins and whales. There are pictures, billboards, and floor tiles of dolphins all over the place. But there is a cruel and heartless practice that takes places in a restricted cove that has been hidden from public until this film exposed the barbaric truth by using covert tactics and technology.
In this hidden cove, boats regularly surround groups of dolphins on their migration route. The fishermen seal the area and leave the dolphins in this confined section overnight. Hundreds of the dolphins are driven ashore stressed out and frightened. The following day, trainers collect young females and fly them to different parts of the world to be kept in captivity, many dying in transport, and then slaughter the rest to be sold for meat. It’s a multimillion-dollar industry that is backed by powerful enterprises and this film attempts to put pressure to stop this practice.