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: