‘The Cove’ Star Is Kicked out of Japan

Japanese authorities deport dolphin activist Ric O’Barry after detaining him for 19 days at Tokyo’s airport.
(Photo: Courtesy DolphinProject.net)
Feb 5, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

Dolphin trainer turned animal-rights activist Ric O’Barry has spent the past 13 years working to expose Japan’s dolphin hunts, and now the country has sent him packing.

Japanese officials on Friday put the star of the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove on a plane at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport bound for the United States. Immigration officials barred O’Barry, 76, from entering the country on his arrival in Tokyo on Jan. 18 and held him in a detention facility for 19 days.

His son, Lincoln O’Barry, said the deportation is a desperate attempt by the Japanese government to hide the ongoing dolphin drive and slaughter in Taiji. Each year, thousands of dolphins are herded by fishing boats into a cove at Taiji, where they are killed for their meat or captured for sale to aquariums and marine parks.

“They’ve failed miserably, and all they’re really doing is bringing more attention to the issue,” Lincoln O’Barry said. He said the official reason his father was deported, according to Japanese immigration, was that he supposedly lied about his itinerary on a trip to the country this past summer and wasn’t in the country as a “tourist.”

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“They know all about my father, so every time he comes into the country he gets interrogated for about one to five hours, about where he is going, how long, and why,” he said. “They don’t do that with any other Americans coming into the country.”

Takashi Takano, a lawyer for O’Barry’s conservation group the Dolphin Project, said in a statement: “Tourism is not just ‘sightseeing,’ but also includes such activities as visits to places of disasters or holocaust. Mr. O’Barry’s visits to the cove in Taiji and his reports on dolphin hunting should be considered a legitimate tourist activity. To those who believe Japan is an open and democratic country, it must be shocking to realize this kind of experience can happen here and now.”

Americans do not need a visa to enter Japan for visits of under 90 days, according to the Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C.

Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove and executive director of the Ocean Preservation Society, said O’Barry’s arrest would only strengthen the resolve of groups like his.

“He was deported because the Taiji dolphin slaughter is a huge international embarrassment to Japan, and Ric is the most vocal protester,” Psihoyos said. “He didn’t violate any Japanese laws, but he brings worldwide attention to one of the most brutal animal atrocities in the world.”

The deportation means O’Barry must stay out of the country for five years, which the Dolphin Project is protesting.

A petition on the group’s website has garnered more than 25,000 signatures asking the Japanese government to overturn the deportation. Lincoln O’Barry said the team has filed a legal objection, with a lawsuit to follow.

“This is the beginning of something, not the end,” Ric O’Barry said in a statement. “The deportation is the green light to sue the government, something we have never had before.”