Margaret Mead was right......

Sunday, March 04, 2012

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

US anthropologist & popularizer of anthropology (1901 - 1978) 

It is truly heartening to witness the power of people making a difference in the world.  We have seen global shifts, Arab Spring, Occupy movements, and even in our world of dolphins, OPS salutes our hearty supporters and followers. Look what we have done!


On February 21, the Environmental Investigation Agency published a report about Amazon Japan's sales of whale meat. The group noted that the selling of the meat, some of which reportedly came from endangered species, violated Amazon's policy against advertising unlicensed or illegal animal products. People took note and acted.

Cove Guardian Melissa Sehgal started a petition. The Humane Society International called for the public to contact Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Using social media tools, Facebook, Twitter, Care2, thousands of people demanded that Amazon enact an immediate corporate-wide policy prohibiting the sale of all cetacean products.

Within days, Amazon had removed the products.

Then there was the Hong Kong Airlines incident.

News broke a few weeks ago that they had transported dolphins for a hefty profit. These "flying coffins" as they quickly became tagged, disturbed many individuals, for a number of reasons. The blatantly cruel rigging, the long flight, which originated in Osaka, the nearest major airport to Taiji.

Equally unsettling was the discovery of an internal memo, heralding this event to all Hong Kong Airlines staff. 

“It is the first time for Hong Kong Airlines to fly this kind of large live animal in its history,” the memo reads. “The smooth handling of such special cargo which is time sensitive and vulnerable, demonstrates that Hongkong Airlines cargo handling capability has further improved.”

The memo goes on: “The B733F fleet utilization rate is increased by operating this charter flight during the aircraft spare time, and an extra cargo revenue income of HK$850,000 (including our own cargo sales income on the position sectors) has been achieved, which equivalent to HK$77,000 per block hour.”

Again, we witnessed public outcry. Petitions, Tweets and messages soared through the systems.

Within days, the carrier had no choice but to apologize.

"Hong Kong Airlines wishes to convey that it is a responsible member of the transport industry caring for the future and environment," the airline said.
"Since it is believed that transportation of this nature can result in endangering wildlife elsewhere, Hong Kong Airlines will immediately ban shipments of this kind," they stated.

Basically, they are sorry and won't do it again. And that's good, but it will be hard for them to erase the shame of having hundreds of news outlets around the world, from CNN to

Air Cargo World running this story.

So we at OPS are grateful. To the countless individuals who have seen The Cove and feel compelled to act. And start petitions. And Tweet. And send out emails sharing their outrage to their friends. And run the story on their blogs. And we are grateful to the online news community, enabling all to share well researched information.

So as we enter the year of the Dragon (symbol of good fortune and intense power in Eastern culture) we might be seeing change brought on by "a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens."


~Viki Psihoyos~



Cove Countdown

Thursday, August 11, 2011


The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji is scheduled to resume in three weeks, September 1.
We know that our film has created massive awareness, we see countless letters, emails, petitions, protests. We also know that this year, celebrities, TV series, crowds are planning to show up on the shores of “the little town with a really big secret”….which of course is no longer a secret.


What can one do?


Ric O’Barry is heading there, and if you choose to join him, read this

Remember, we support non-confrontational, legal encounters in Taiji.  Militant actions will not be tolerated.  Also, Japanese police forces have been readying for large groups.  Let’s remember that Ric has spent years developing a good relationship with the local police. No one would want to jeopardize that.
So if you are above 18, able to pay for travel and lodging, and able to retain dignity and calm, go join Ric.


Local action


Another alternative is to Celebrate Japan Dolphins Day by organizing or participating in one of many events around the world.

Check this map to see if there is an event near you.
If not, find your local Japanese Embassy or Consulate and organize a peaceful protest or event of your own.
This is a positive, celebratory day, follow Ric's blog for messaging info.



Continue to support groups that work to end suffering of all creatures, but especially dolphins. Tell friends, colleagues, family to Just Say No, Just Don’t Go


   Dolphin Parks.

   Swim With Dolphin Programs.

   Hotels and Lodges that feature captive dolphins on the property.

   Dolphin “Trainer For A Day” programs.

   Dolphin “Research” facilities that charge large amounts to interact with dolphins.

   Cruise lines that feature stops at Swim With Dolphin Parks.

The Captive Dolphin industry is fueled by money, not love.

If audiences stop buying tickets, these special creatures can stay wild and free.

~Happy Celebrate Japan Dolphins Day~

image OPS





Dolphin Assisted Therapy: High Hopes, High Prices

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

As the recent documentary, Dolphin Boy makes the rounds, hitting film festivals and networks, we all have to ask.....what's the deal with dolphin assisted therapy (DAT)?

Science or Scam?

Dr. Lori Marino, senior lecturer in the Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program at Emory University, has been campaigning against this unique form of dolphin captivity for years, warning of it's predatory nature. Often, parents who are willing to try anything to help a disabled child resort to this murky form of "healing."
"Dolphin-assisted therapy is not a valid treatment for any disorder," says Marino, a leading dolphin and whale researcher. "We want to get the word out that it's a lose-lose situation for people and for dolphins."
Marino and Emory colleague, Scott Lilienfeld, professor in the Department of Psychology, launched an educational campaign countering claims made by purveyors of DAT.
In their study, "Dolphin-Assisted Therapy: More Flawed Data and More Flawed Conclusions" originally published in 1998 and updated in 2007, they debunked claims that DAT was a valid form of science. Focusing in five specific papers over the years, they systematically broke down the claims.
"We found that all five studies were methodologically flawed and plagued by several threats to both internal and construct validity," wrote Marino and Lilienfeld.
 "We conclude that nearly a decade following our initial review, there remains no compelling evidence that DAT is a legitimate therapy, or that it affords any more than fleeting improvements in mood."
Programs are not cheap. Packages at the Crimean facility of a Dr. Lukina can run up to 4000 Euros per patient.
One is told:
"A filing (sic) of a joy and harmony during the treatment sessions in the hearts of children, their parents and support team is a guaranteed outcome. Contacts with the friendliest creatures of the sea and therapy sessions are like a game for patients and others. It is, nevertheless, a very important part of a therapy sessions."
Yet Marino's study found multiple flaws with Lukina's methodology. Lukina's results of DAT tests did not sufficiently describe testing methods, details were sorely lacking.
Also, according to Marino: "The pivotal weakness of the Lukina study is the absence of a control group consisting of children who did not swim with dolphins. Therefore, the study does not meet the minimal criteria for basic experimental design. This flaw alone renders the Lukina study difficult to interpret even without the myriad other threats to validity."
Dr. Lukina claims to offer relief from a range of afflictions including chronic fatigue syndrome, phobias, depression and cerebral palsy, all at her facility at the State Oceanarium of Ukraine.
According to Marino, "Dr. Lukina depends heavily – if not solely – on touting 'experience' and on testimonials (which is always a red flag for pseudoscience claims). So, there is no evidence at all that what they are doing there is therapy in any meaningful sense of the word."
DAT's not good.
~Viki Psihoyos~
Photo: Dr. Lukina's site

Earth Day Number Dump

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Photo Chris Jordan
Detail of 426,000 cell phones, the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.
From Running The Numbers

Earth Day countdown (got your Widget?)
The numbers are flying.
It all started 40 years ago, when over 20 million people rallied for bettering our Earth's conditions.
This year will see the greatest numbers ever, in terms of people observing.
Why not get involved with some part of the Billion Acts of Green campaign.
Here in the US, the numbers don't look so good.
We produce a quarter of the world's waste, making us the biggest garbage producer in the world, behind China and India. Less people but more stuff!
So Much Stuff
Every year we toss:
25 billion Styrofoam cups.
38,000 miles of ribbon (enough to tie a nice bow around the Earth)
 Enough paper and plastic cups, spoons and forks to circle the planet 300 times.
1 billion shopping bags, adding 300,000 tons to landfills.
2.6 billion holiday cards, these discarded reminders of joy could fill a football field 10 stories high.
Too much stuff.
Recycle. Reuse.
Don't buy in the first place.
Check out and share The Story of Stuff.
Earth 911 tells you what to do with that hard to recycle stuff.
Lots more numbers at the Clean Air Council site.
This Earth Day, get out, get involved.
But let's regard every day as Earth Day.
And bring our numbers down.
~Viki Psihoyos~

US Good News Map courtesy of Mother Nature Network

    Cheat Sheet for Final Projects, The Cove

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    It's that time of year again. Finals are due over the next few months and lots of bright students are choosing the film, The Cove for their projects.
    We love that people regard the film as a launching pad for discussions on so many issues, dolphin slaughter and captivity, dolphin intelligence, mercury content in seafood, sustainable fishing, changes in our environment due to the burning of fossil fuel, our oceans.
    So we are now finding many emails in our inbox asking similar questions.
    We want to help get those "A" grades, in addition to triggering thoughtful papers so we offer some answers, links, and advice from an expert.
    Here are some recent questions:

    What has been the effect on sales of dolphin and whale meat since The Cove?

    We do know that 2010 sales of the mercury laced meat was down 30 percent.

    What happened to the captive dolphins during the recent earthquake and tsunami?

    Although Taiji is miles away from the epicenter of the earthquake, there were swells washing over this coastal town.  We heard that all 24 dolphins being kept in sea pens in the harbor died as they were thrashed against the rocky coastline.

    What are your thoughts on whaling?
    While whaling has been a tradition to some cultures for survival, for instance Eskimo people, they have always harvested enough for their own community to survive. Modern day whaling is a different game, faster boats, advanced killing technology and all for commerce. Whalers sell to others for profit. This is wrong, in our view, because whales, in addition to their magnificence and intelligence, are going extinct.

    What can I do to help?

    We offer tips on our OPS site for those who want to do more.

    Can you recommend any links to learn more?
    Sure. Here are some sites we like:
    Center For Biological Diversity
    The Humane Society
    Ocean Alliance
    Blue Ocean Institute
    Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

    I am  a college student that is going into the field of animal behavior. I really want to study dolphins, study their behavior and how they learn.  How is this possible outside of a zoo or aquarium

    Answer from Lori Marino:

    Hi Kara - OPS sent me your question and I would like to help answer it. I have been studying dolphin intelligence and behavior for close to twenty years.  I am delighted that you are interested in dolphin behavior.  There is so much to learn still.
    Your question is a very good one.  Actually, there are hardly any currently existing research labs with captive dolphins because almost all of the dolphins used in this kind of research have died at a relatively young age.  That is a harsh fact.  I know.  But many dolphin researchers have been making exciting discoveries about dolphin behavior from studies in the wild.  Examples include the work of Janet Mann on the Monkey Mia Dolphins in Australia, the work of Toni Frohoff who studies wild lone sociable dolphins around the world, and Denise Herzing, who has been studying the same group of dolphins in the Bahamas for over twenty years.  I'll put their websites below and you can take a look for yourself.
    In addition, the current thinking among many dolphin researchers, including myself, is that the next generation of dolphin behavioral research should be done entirely in the wild for ethical reasons.  It is an exciting challenge.
    Here are the websites for the researchers I mention above:


    Things We Like........Hannimals!

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Our friend Hanna started taking pictures of her stuffed animals at age 4, she now has a thriving greeting card line at the ripe age of 12. She sends a third of her profits to Polar Bears International, which helps these mighty creatures which are threatened, like many by climate change. Why polar bears? They are my favorite animal,” she says. “The money goes to help research.” As her line continues to grow, (she now sells “hundreds”) we can be inspired by another young hero who is helping the planet in her own way. Her dream is to someday photograph polar bears in the wild but for now, her own furry friends are doing a great job modeling in the wild.

    Bravo Hanna

    "You're either an activist or an inactivist."

    Louie Psihoyos

    Big Whale Show, Big Debt Load

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    News comes in this week of the refinancing of SeaWorld as they try to reposition themselves as leaders in educational captive dolphin facilities.
    "SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is seeking to refinance most of the roughly $1.5 billion in debt the company took on in late 2009 as part of its sale to private-equity owner Blackstone Group."
    Not a good year for SeaWorld.
    We do know that the $75,00 fines levied by OSHA against the conglomerate ("willful safety violation for not recognizing hazards that could cause death") last August are being contested. This month marks the one year anniversary of orca trainer Dawn Brancheaus’ death, as a 12,000 pound orca dragged her underwater.
    In fact SeaWorld is even asking to seal all testimony for the sure-to-be-heated April hearing but the blogs are abuzz and groups like The Orca Project are calling for transparency.
    "In the past, SeaWorld has been successful at maintaining a cloak of secrecy in cases regarding employee injuries," the Orca Project statement said, "and it's expected they will try to follow the same path after the death of their veteran orca trainer nearly one year ago."
    This comes on the heels of a detailed report by former SeaWorld trainers Jeffrey Ventre, MD and John Jett, Ph.D, outlining the inherent dangers to animals and trainers in captive situations.
    SeaWorld is actively publicizing plans for a new show, set to unveil later this spring. Called "One Ocean" it “features spectacular whale behaviors, including thrilling high-energy leaps and multiple whales performing simultaneously.” It will take place in “Shamu Stadium,” with a “three-story set, panoramic LED screens and hundreds of surround-sound speakers.”
    To prepare for "One Ocean," SeaWorld's three Shamu Stadium orca complexes will undergo significant construction, as crews install fountains, paint new color schemes and, in some of the parks, replace oversized video screens.
    Credit analysts at Moody's Investor Service said the move would reduce SeaWorld's interest expense by $14 million a year. They also cite “recent attendance weakness” from the February 2010 death of a whale trainer.
    We wonder if SeaWorld gets it. This outmoded entertainment form can't be disguised as educational or even conservation themed. The paying audience sees the cruelty and has stopped going.
    ~Viki Psihoyos~
    image courtesy of SeaWorld

    Hail The Young Heroes

    Monday, December 13, 2010


    Around here at OPS HQ, we are wrapping up an amazing year and looking to the future. Another film, Singing Planet is in the works. We are also working on many other important initiatives. The future is also a vista of possibilities for many of our new friends, fans, followers. In The Cove, my husband Louie asks, “Where are the Roger Paynes and Ric O Barrys of tomorrow?” We now see armies of them charged up, already acting to make change.


    We see half-pint heroes;  a fine young Mr. Grant from BC, Canada sent OPS a check last week for $1.04 and wrote.

    “My 6 year old brother gave me this money to "help Mr. whale" I think you may be able to help him more. :)”

    Thank you sirs.


    An eloquent, ambitious 17-year-old  Katherine Leigh wrote to us a few months ago. She outlined her innovative program, Green Catch: Sustaining Blue by Catching GreenInspired by The Cove, she single-handedly created a study guide designed for Middle School students. Monterey Bay Aquarium is now partnering with her.

    She writes:

    “I created Green Catch as part of my Girl Scout Gold Award. Before I even knew that marine biologists existed, it is what I have wanted to be. I loved the ocean as a little girl, and now at age 17, I still do. I have learned a lot, tried a lot of different things, but the ocean is my passion. I recognize how inter-connected society has become and that only global awareness will ensure sustainability. Sustainable seafood is a worldwide concern, and I believe that Green Catch can help this important issue. Soon, I plan to host a training event for other high school students so that they, too, can teach Green Catch.


    My program, Green Catch: Sustaining Blue by Catching Green, is striving to lead the way. Green Catch is a sustainable seafood educational program for middle school students. It manages to address the complex, multi-faceted issue of sustainable seafood in a way that is easy to understand. Green Catch exposes students, their families, and their friends to seafood's impact on the environment, human health, and the economy. It also shows them real ways that they can make a difference. It bridges the gap between what happens inside the classroom and out, by including take-home materials and information for the friends and families of the students. The best part about Green Catch is its user-friendly quality; it can be taught by virtually anyone. Green Catch has the support of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s organization, Seafood Watch, and I have already taught Green Catch at two middle schools.”


    Then we have local Jordyn Howard, a 13-year-old, self professed “Cove freak” who has already raised $400 for OPS, selling concessions at school movie night. That's a lot of popcorn and soft drinks. She also designed and circulated a pledge to not visit dolphinariums, which was the inspiration for our online Pledge. She is now making posters to line her school hallways advertising the upcoming screening of…yes, The Cove. We plan to be there.


    Gestures large and small, all triggered by an idea are truly touching. And essential if we are to make it. We salute these and other young heroes, they are truly our future.


    Have a warm, meaningful holiday. Rest up. We have lots of work to do next year.


    Team OPS Update From The Field

    Friday, November 05, 2010


    OPS, the team that created the film, The Cove is working on the next project, Singing Planet, addressing issues of man-made extinction. Last month, director Louie Psihoyos and the OPS team went to the South Pacific to film humpback whales in 3D. Here’s an account of the experience from Kirk Krack, freediver from The Cove.


    My first introduction to OPS’s new movie, The Singing Planet, was in the Island Kingdom of Tonga. The film's goal is to pull on people’s heartstrings by capturing, the audio and visual of what we have to lose as species are dying off.

    We were in the water, shooting interactions between newborn calf and mother humpbacks. This species really symbolizes the start of environmental movements in the 70’s.

    The new calves, which were anywhere from less than a week to several weeks old, would frolic and play around their mothers. They would try to spy hop (elevate above the surface) , tail slap and play with their moms, rolling around and on top of them. It was much like a baby human taking those first few crawls forward, discovering that its hand is attached, and that it controls it, and by the general curiosity all new babies exhibit.

    To film them, I would introduce myself and given enough time they would either accept me, allowing me to get closer to film, or they would reject me and keep me at distance too far to get any good footage. Sometimes it would take hours until I was accepted, but one special time I got onto a mother and calf that I had seen a week earlier, and they welcomed me almost immediately.

    The new calf would stay tucked under its mother’s chin, and after a short while the calf would start its journey to its next breath. But the surface also meant playtime and for 10 minutes I’d have a 10-15ft baby calf swimming circles around me, checking me out, practicing spy hopping and tail slapping within feet of me. Just rolling around on the surface to enjoy all that its new life could offer. It was an underwater videographer’s dream. I didn’t have to chase, I just had to be patient and let them get comfortable with me and accept me in their space.

    As a new father, I was especially touched by the baby playing and frolicking. My own daughter Kaila (meaning ‘Ocean’ in Hawaiian) being only seven months old at the time, I almost felt myself inside the mind of the mother humpback. As the baby would near the surface where I was filming or swim within feet of me I would instinctively go to the mother to see her reaction.

    The Cove solidified my commitment to wanting to see a better future for the ocean and our environment. We’ve gone past the point where ‘ignorance is bliss’. We’re now going to have to do something. This isn’t ‘some other generation’s problem’. This absolutely going to be our problem and the next generation, my daughter’s generation will be most affected. Dr. Sylvia Earle says we have 10-15 years at most to do concrete and large things to change the course of our oceans. Or it will be too late. Those are very scary words to hear if you actually listen to what she’s saying.

    Once I was asked how it felt to be an environmentalist. My response was that ‘I felt no more an environmentalist then anyone living on this planet should feel’. I do this now more than ever for one thing: the future of my daughter and her generation, and for all generations to come. The world is no longer so big that our actions won’t have repercussions. It’s in fact a very small village now, but a village that has 6.8 billion people and by 2050 will have 9.5 billion people on it. In our current state it’s unsustainable and a catastrophe waiting to happen. We have to work together to live within a balance with nature and the earth lest it should decide it’s finally had enough of us. This is possible. We just have to decide to be the change we know should happen and quit burying our heads in the sand.

    So when Kaila comes to me when I’m at a ripe old age and she’s starting her own family and she’s asking me ‘how did this all happen to her generation’ I want to feel like I can tell her that at least her father and mother tried to make a difference for her.


    The Cove site, now going global

    Tuesday, November 02, 2010

    We are thrilled that our site now translates into over 50 languages. Since the film has been released, people have been sending us messages of support from around the world. Now we can offer FAQ's in Arabic, The Cove synopsis in Swahili or our blog in Belarusian. Along with the Japanese and Chinese we have been offering. This is a Google device so accuracy might be slightly off.