International Marine Mammal Project

German dolphin defender turns 85

Earth Island News

In July 2006, Rollo Gebhard, founder and president of EII‘s German partner in the program for Dolphin Safe Tuna, Gesellschaft zur Rettung der Delphine (GRD, Society for Dolphin Conservation), turned 85.

Fifteen years ago, Gebhard and Angelika Zilcher established GRD upon returning to Germany after sailing around the world. The voyage was his third and her first such adventure. During their seven-year journey, they logged 20,000 miles across three oceans between Australia and Europe.

Over the years, Gebhard had witnessed a dramatic decrease in dolphin populations on his trips, concurrent with the increasing use of destructive fishing methods such as driftnets. “When Angelika and I founded GRD in 1991, we knew that the most difficult task of our lives lay ahead of us – fighting for the abolition of driftnets and other destructive fishing methods that cause the senseless death of hundreds of thousands of dolphins and other marine life each year. We aimed high, but we were determined to save the dolphins, our faithful companions on many journeys,” says Gebhard.

His return was a spectacular re-entry into “terrestrial” life. Attracting media coverage for his outstanding sailing feats, the actor-turned-sailor took advantage of his popularity and used his appearances on numerous TV and radio shows to tell people about the indiscriminate killing of dolphins in the tuna fisheries. His calls to boycott tuna products resulted in a 30 percent decrease in tuna sales in Germany. Gebhard contacted EII’s Brenda Killian, and before long, GRD and EII had joined forces to remove “dolphin-deadly” tuna from the German tuna market. Gebhard’s lobbying played a vital role in securing the EU ban on driftnet fishing, which took effect on January 1, 2002.

GRD has persuaded more than 95 percent of German tuna importers and traders to join the dolphin-safe program. GRD is working to have the remaining five percent of companies also become Dolphin Safe members and keep the program enforced in Germany.

GRD also supports several projects to save threatened dolphin populations in the waters of Peru, Mozambique, and Croatia.

— Ulrike Kirsch

Japan Dolphin Day

On September 20, in 34 cities around the world, activists held peaceful demonstrations in front of Japanese embassies and consulates protesting the annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins in Taiji and other fishing centers.

photo of a man wearing a video screen showing dolphin slaughter, handing leaflets to a crowdMichael ReppyJapan Dolphin Day in San Francisco

Ric O’Barry, trainer of the original TV stars of “Flipper” and an expert on dolphin protection, said, “Japan Dolphin Day was a success for the dolphins in Japan, and it was a public relations nightmare for the dolphin hunters and the Japanese government.”

To the participants, O’Barry added: “Yesterday you sent a powerful message that was heard loud and clear in Tokyo. The message was: YES, there is international opposition to this secret, barbaric, and anachronistic practice, and you can’t hide it anymore.”

Fifty-nine environmental and animal welfare organizations took part in Japan Dolphin Day. In London, more than 100 people showed up to protest the world’s largest remaining dolphin kill. Two dozen protestors demonstrated in Melbourne, according to Australian news sources covering the event. In Los Angeles, MyNetworkTV’s “Desire” star Chris DeRose joined forces with actor Ed Begley Jr. and others to protest the hunts. Demonstrations were also held in San Francisco, Washington DC, Rome, Hong Kong, and Manila.

Overall, the Japan Dolphin Day event was a big success. Representatives of Japan were at most of the events, observing and accepting documents on the hunt from protestors.

“We will return to Japan and continue to do everything in our power to expose these crimes against nature,” O’Barry stated. “We will work in a respectful, peaceful manner within the framework of Japanese law. And we will not tolerate the world’s largest dolphin slaughter any longer.”

David Phillips, director of IMMP, said: “IMMP, with Ric O’Barry and the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, has pledged to our members to end the annual slaughter of dolphins authorized by Japan’s Fisheries Agency. Most Japanese don’t even know the hunts exist. We must inform the people of Japan to gain their support in ending this inhumane slaughter once and for all.”

— Mark J. Palmer

Japan and Dolphins

During Japan Dolphin Day events in San Francisco, I visited the local Japanese consulate. I was curious what the response would be to an average citizen voicing concerns about Japan’s annual dolphin slaughter, so I posed as a potential tourist who was affected by the protest and went to the Japanese Consulate’s main office with an information package, including graphic files showing dolphins being killed, to speak with the Consulate staff.

The person in the visitor’s information center nodded knowingly when I showed her the pictures and expressed how shocked I was.

“Yeah, it is a shocking picture, but you know, in my job, you sometimes have to set your personal beliefs aside,” she said. This wasn’t a satisfying statement to me, but she obviously didn’t want to delve the subject any further. Instead, she offered to let me talk to somebody who would.

Another woman entered the room. She looked very “official” and a little reserved. Nevertheless, she was very polite, and was willing to listen to what I had to say.

photo of protestors holding a sign reading 'Shame on Japan, stop capturing, harpooning, and slaughtering dolphins'Michael ReppyJapan Dolphin Day in San Francisco

We sat there for about half an hour, often talking at cross-purposes. She said the Japanese didn’t do anything that violated international whaling agreements. I reminded her the demonstration was about dolphins, not whales. I referred to the NY Times ad (.pdf, ~99k) in the package that supported the accusations of the activists – namely the senseless killing of thousands of dolphins in the process of selecting the “best-looking” ones for marine shows.

The more we talked, the more she became interested in the matter, attempting to read the newspaper article with one eye during our conversation. I apparently hit a sore spot by saying I was so shocked by all this that I was not sure anymore if I really wanted information on Japan as a future travel destination. She seemed very embarrassed and almost personally ashamed about the perception of Japan that other passers-by and I might have gathered from the pictures. She asked me to also look beyond this facet and see the culturally rich and beautiful aspects of her country. I almost felt sorry for her as she seemed to adopt more and more personal responsibility for the things happening in her country and looked quite distressed.

When we said good-bye, she thanked me for talking to her and for not being judgmental towards the country as a whole. She asked me to leave her the package (which I gladly agreed to do) and told me to contact her with more information or questions. When she handed me her business card, I learned that I had just met the director and consul of the Consulate General!

— Lena Domroese

New Friend of the Sea

Paolo Bray, the European director of IMMP’s Dolphin Safe International Monitoring Program, has recently launched Friend of the Sea, a project that promotes best practices in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

Friend of the Sea has established strict criteria that fisheries must meet to display the registered Friend of the Sea logo on their packaging. These criteria include the prohibition of high seas driftnets, bottom trawlers, or dredges; the implementation of by-catch reduction measures if using purse seining or long-lining; avoiding overexploitation of fish stocks; and complying with applicable catch limits.

The Friend of the Sea Web site lists lower-impact fisheries as well as unsustainable fisheries. Consumers can download handy consumer guides, which are about the size of credit card and available in four languages.

At present, two European retailers have joined the project and have undergone assessment: Carrefour (the second largest retail chain in the world) and Coop Italia (the main Italian retail chain and the largest consumers’ cooperative in Europe). The European Union has partially financed Friend of the Sea, and some of the costs are covered by the royalties paid for the use of the logo. Anyone wishing to contribute to Friend of the Sea should contact or visit

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