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Our 2018 Accomplishments for Whales and Dolphins

| Mark J. Palmer, International Marine Mammal Project
Topics: belugas, Captivity Industry, Dolphin and Whale Trade, Dolphin Safe Tuna, Dolphins, International Whaling Commission, Lawsuit, Orcas, Russia, Sanctuaries, SeaWorld, Slaughter, Taiji, Japan, Tuna Industry, Whales, Whaling

Victory for Wild Orcas and Beluga Whales in Russia

We worked to end the captures of wild orcas and beluga whale, meant for a life of captivity and deprivation in aquariums in China and other destinations.  Technically, the export trade in wild live cetaceans is illegal in Russia.   The Russian government announced in November that no permits would be issued for captures of orcas or beluga whales in 2019, and seemed to curtail all such future captures.


Big Win for Dolphin Safe Tuna Label!

After ten years of litigation, the World Trade Organization, on Friday, Dec. 14th, closed the case that Mexico had launched against the US in 2008, and declared the US Dolphin Safe tuna label standards were in compliance with WTO standards and need not be weakened, as the government of Mexico had demanded.  The government of Mexico claimed the Dolphin Safe standards for the US discriminated against Mexican tuna caught by chasing, harassing, netting and killing thousands of dolphins annually.  The US government, working with IMMP, has fought the case, with the WTO determining last year that the US was correct.  The new decision by the WTO Appellate Panel agreed with the lower panel ruling, and the case is now finally at end.  Thanks to all our donors for their contributions and support for this ten-year battle, now won by the dolphins!  The Dolphin Safe label had reduced the killing of dolphins in the tuna fishery by 98%, from 80,000 to 100,000 dolphins annually down to a few thousand.  We want to end all netting of dolphins to catch tuna, which would bring the mortality numbers down even lower.


Verifying Dolphin Safe Standards for Tuna

In 2017, IMMP Dolphin Safe tuna monitors conducted 526 inspections and audits of tuna companies in 76 countries around the world.  We have 809 companies that have pledged to protect dolphins during tuna fishing operations.  IMMP monitors ensure that canned tuna with a Dolphin Safe label is verified as being caught in a manner that does not harm dolphins, and protects sharks, sea turtles, and other species.


Fighting Japan’s Whaling Schemes at the IWC

In September, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) rejected an effort by Japan to renew commercial whaling.  IMMP once again produced a hard-hitting newsletter ECO for the meeting of the IWC in Brazil.  Copies, with cover page articles about Japan’s continued whaling (for so-called “scientific” purposes) and urging an end to commercial whaling by all parties, were distributed to meeting attendees, including delegates from the nations represented at the IWC.


Educating the Public About the Damage of Captivity

Two outstanding videos were produced by IMMP this year on captivity issues.  The first, SeaWorld’s Lies Debunked, features IMMP Executive Director David Phillips explaining why SeaWorld’s false claims about captive orcas simply aren’t credible.  The second, Lives of Wild Dolphins, shows what dolphins and orcas lose when they are captured and forced to perform tricks in small tanks for the rest of their lives.


Teaching Kindness for Dolphins to Children in Japan

IMMP was once again a proud sponsor of the Fukushima Kids Dolphin Camp, an all-volunteer effort in Japan to bring children, restricted from playing outdoors due to radiation concerns, to Mikura Island to swim with a pod of friendly wild bottlenose dolphins and enjoy an outdoor adventure.


Defending Our Most Important Wildlife Law: The ESA

IMMP joined a coalition of environmental and animal welfare groups opposing weakening amendments to the US Endangered Species Act, which protects many marine and terrestrial mammals.  Dozens of bills and amendments were defeated thanks to our coalition efforts.


Japan Must End Whaling and Dolphin Killing Permanently Before 2020 Olympics

IMMP continued our efforts to pressure the Japan government to end whaling and dolphin killing, with emphasis on the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.  IMMP publicized an incident in which the organizers of the World Cup, which also oversees the sailing competition at the Olympics, were embarrassed when the Japanese Olympics Committee conducted opening ceremonies at a venue as a prelude to the Olympics using captive dolphins.  Japan officials apologized to the sailors and World Cruising.  IMMP is in contact with the Japan Olympics Committee, which tells us they have sent along our concerns for whaling and dolphin hunting to the Japanese government.  We will continue to pursue ways to end the killing of whales and dolphins permanently in Japan and other countries.


Defending the Ocean in Court

IMMP is working closely with the newly formed Earth Island Advocates, who help coordinate and encourage legal strategies for solving environmental issues.  We are prepared to sue the Trump Administration should the President follow through on threats to open the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to commercial fishing, and we are joining litigation to require the government to hand over necropsy reports for SeaWorld’s orca Tilikum, in order to see why this male orca died so young in captivity.


Fighting Offshore Oil Drilling

IMMP is also seeking documents from the Trump Administration about how the Dept. of Interior came to offer 90% of US outer continental shelf for offshore oil drilling to the oil industry.   Offshore oil drilling threatens massive oil spills, chronic oil contamination, dumping of toxic drilling muds, and loud noise from air gun blasting of sediments and oil drilling operations.  We are preparing a case against the Trump Administration for ignoring our request to clarify why and how decisions are being made about offshore oil drilling right offshore of the US coast.


Our Lawsuit to Get SeaWorld to Tell the Truth about Orcas

SeaWorld lawyers have tried to have a federal judge throw out our lawsuit on four separate occasions, but the judge has overruled them on the core case we have built.  IMMP helped develop and is consulting with the lawsuit contending that SeaWorld has violated consumer protection and unfair business practices laws by putting out false information about how “happy” and “thriving” their captive orcas are.  Our expert witnesses, including IMMP’s Mark J. Palmer and David Phillips, are reviewing documents for the case, moving slowly but steadily towards a trial in 2019.


Lawsuit to Reveal the Truth to the Public about Captive Orca Deaths

Joining with several organizations and individuals, IMMP is suing the US National Marine Fisheries Service to obtain necropsy reports on the deaths of several SeaWorld orcas, including the orca Tilikum, the orca featured in the documentary Blackfish who was involved in the death of three people.  IMMP believes making the necropsy reports public would help people understand why captivity is so traumatic for these captive species.


Retiring Orcas and Dolphins to Seaside Sanctuaries

IMMP celebrated the decision by the Vancouver Aquarium to end keeping cetaceans in captivity, while continuing to work with the Whale Sanctuary Project to establish a long-term sanctuary for orcas and beluga whales in North America.  We also celebrated passage of a ban on cetacean captivity by the Canadian Senate.  The legislation now moves to the lower house of the Canadian parliament.  IMMP participated in demonstrations against captivity for Empty the Tanks Day and dolphin hunts in Japan.


Photo of humpback whale fluke off San Francisco by Mark J. Palmer/Earth Island Institute.


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