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The Cove

Film exposes dark secrets of the deep.

January 21, 2010
Sarah Ruppenthal · Senior Contributing Writer

The Cove exposes the dark side of the multi-billion dollar dolphin entertainment industry (a bottle-nosed dolphin retails for $150,000, only to spend a life performing tricks at amusement parks and aquariums) and a clandestine market that sells mercury-tainted dolphin meat for human consumption.

This is no ordinary documentary film. It is a tense, action-packed and highly emotional rollercoaster that will keep you on the edge of your seat, tug on your heartstrings—and quite possibly ignite a flame of outrage. The film chronicles the valiant efforts of Ric O’Barry, the former dolphin trainer of five dolphins who starred as “Flipper” in the popular 1960s television series.

Today, O’Barry is an outspoken activist dedicated to revealing the plight of dolphins in captivity. Teaming up with filmmaker Louis Psihoyos and members of the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS), he has embarked on a mission to reveal the dirty little secret kept by residents in the town of Taiji, Japan: The annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins in a hidden cove surrounded by “No Trespassing” signs and coils of thorny barbed wire. In nearly ten minutes of shocking, unprecedented footage captured by a covert, well-planned sting operation in the style of Oceans 11, Taiji fishermen are shown luring thousands of wild dolphins (also called “dolphin drive hunting”) into the cove to be systematically slaughtered.

Article Photos

Sarah Ruppenthal
Senior Contributing Writer

For those who have not seen it, I won’t spoil the ending of the film, but be warned: The images are visceral—not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. But it’s reality, and the kind that will compel you to take action. I did. As the credits rolled The Cove, I wiped away the last of my tears, blew my nose and grabbed my laptop. Within minutes, I had scoured the OPS Website, signed a petition, requested a monthly newsletter and joined The Cove’s Facebook group. And I wasn’t alone.

But despite the attention garnered by the film, the annual Taiji dolphin drive hunt has commenced once again.

In a statement posted on, O’Barry wrote, “At the Cove in Taiji, the dolphin killing continues. Although the killing of bottlenose dolphins—the primary target species—has dramatically decreased compared to previous seasons, they, along with other dolphin species, including many pilot whales and Risso’s dolphins, continue to be captured for aquariums and slaughtered for meat by the Taiji fishermen. The fight for the protection of all marine mammals goes on.”



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