Anti-captivity activists gathered this past weekend in San Diego for a demonstration against the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA). The demonstrations featured our giant inflatable blue dolphin, which has been a staple of Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) work and has appeared at many public demonstrations and public events all around the country for decades.
As discussed in a our blog last week, IMATA is the link between SeaWorld and the tragic dolphin slaughter at Taiji. IMATA and SeaWorld both claim they oppose the Taiji dolphin hunts, but many members of IMATA in fact participate in the dolphin hunts directly by helping capture, train and broker live dolphins from the Taiji hunts.
A dolphin sold in Japan for meat only brings around $500 to $600 on the market, but a live trained dolphin from Taiji can bring $150,000 or more on the world market, especially in aquariums in Japan, China, Russia and the Middle East. At one time, SeaWorld and other U.S. aquariums imported dolphins from Japanese drive hunts.
IMATA also claims that captured dolphins in Taiji require high standards of care and training, and only IMATA membership provides trainers with that high level of training for the welfare of the captive dolphins. These are the very trainers who have ripped these poor dolphins (usually young females) from their families for a life in misery in captivity, but apparently that is OK with IMATA.
SeaWorld has many trainers who are members of IMATA, including several in leadership roles.
IMATA was hosting their annual conference near SeaWorld (a sponsor) in the Bahia Resort Hotel, so a large group of activists gathered on the lawns in front of the hotel to demand that SeaWorld and IMATA no longer tolerate any trainers who go to Taiji to steal live dolphins from their families.
About 40 activists showed up, most from the San Diego area, but one couple and their daughter came from Santa Barbara by train, while another group drove all the way from Arizona, being active in protesting the dolphinarium recently opened near Scottsdale in the middle of the desert.
Longtime IMMP supporter Michael Reppy and I flew down to join the protests, carrying along Baby Blue. Dubbed Mark Berman’s own pet, it has been used to draw attention at countless demonstrations and public events all around the country, and the IMATA protests were certainly no exception. Michael has become the IMMP blue dolphin’s volunteer caretaker.
Our thanks to Michael who also filmed the event and all who attended, as well as all those who have signed our petition about IMATA. Special thanks to the organizer, Ellen Erickson, for bringing out the people and the signs for a great demonstration.
For more information on the issue, from an ex-trainer at Marineland, Canada, click here.