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IMMP and Dolphins Lose Mark Berman, Dear Friend and Colleague

| By David Phillips, Mary Jo Rice, Laura Bridgeman, Ed Payne and Mark J. Palmer
Topics: Dolphin and Whale Trade, Keiko, Tuna Industry

Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) and the dolphins and whales of the world have lost a dear friend and colleague, with the passing of Mark Berman on May 13th.

We at IMMP and so many environmentalists and animal welfare advocates are devastated by the news. Mark Berman had been an integral part of our Earth Island and IMMP family for more than 25 years, and we will all sorely miss his friendship and dedication.

Around our offices at Earth Island, Mark was known for his many kindnesses and humor.  Seeing him certainly lifted everyone’s spirits above the daily grind and the daily news of environmental degradation that can dampen anyone’s day.

Mark Berman had dedicated his life to helping whales and dolphins, and elephants and sharks as well, with particular emphasis on opposing captivity for these wonderful animals.  He succeeded in many important victories for marine mammals such as his legislation in South Carolina banning all captivity for dolphins (the only state in the US that specifically bans keeping dolphins in captivity), his successful efforts on several occasions to block imports of live exotic dolphins into the US, and his numerous demonstrations against captivity all around the US and the world, leading to closures of many captive facilities and scrapping of plans for new ones.

Mark’s intense work ethic, numerous phone calls, and dogged determination led to his nickname of “The Bermanator”, a title that made him smile.

Without Mark, IMMP would never have taken on the historic Keiko effort.  Keiko was the orca star of the movie Free Willy.  Mark helped make the fictional film come true for Keiko.  He was part of every facet of Keiko's odyssey from Mexico to Oregon to Iceland to Norway.  Mark had still been sending out Keiko packets to children up to his last days in the office.  He was a major spokesperson for Keiko in Theresa Demarest’s documentary Keiko, The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy.

Mark also worked closely with Lawrence Makili in the Solomon Islands over four years to negotiate a temporary end to the dolphin hunts there, one of the largest dolphin slaughters on Earth.  Lawrence continues to make progress in the Solomons, despite numerous obstacles.

Keiko with Mark Berman.

Mark also served as Director of our International Dolphin Safe Tuna Monitoring Program, ensuring tuna was caught without harm to dolphins.  He traveled tirelessly, especially in Asia, to monitor canneries, and oversee our monitoring in other parts of the globe.  He appeared regularly at tuna conferences and fish marketing events, persuading tuna companies to become Dolphin Safe.  Under his watch, our Dolphin Safe Program has grown to more than 550 tuna companies around the world, all pledged to fish for tuna in ways that do not harm dolphins.

Thanks so much to all of you who are already sending in reflections and tributes.  We welcome your submission of photos, memories, and stories about Mark that we will share online and as part of a memorial.  Please send to .

Our hearts go out to Mark’s family, his sons Bennett and Nat, former wife Yowadee, and two sisters Ellen and Lynn.  Mark will be dearly missed by us all.

In Mark's honor, we have established the Mark Berman Fund to focus on hot-spots around the globe that Mark was particularly committed to where dolphins and whales need immediate help.  The Fund will help assist outreach and action to protect dolphins and whales and keep them wild and free. We welcome your contributions. 

Thanks for all your efforts to keep Mark’s spirit alive and his life’s work moving ahead.


Photo of Keiko that Mark took.