Japan to Deport Maker of Oscar-Winning Dolphin Documentary

In this Sept. 16, 2015 photo released by DolphinProject.com, Ric O'Barry checks the status of Angel the dolphin at the Taiji Whale Museum in Taiji, Wakayama prefecture, western Japan. Photo: DolphinProject.com / AP

TOKYO — After more than two weeks of detention at a Tokyo airport, Japan is set to deport the star of an Oscar-winning documentary that showed how dolphins were hunted in a Japanese village.

Ric O'Barry's lawyer and his son Lincoln O'Barry told The Associated Press that an appeal against a decision by Japanese immigration officials to deny O'Barry entry has been turned down.

O'Barry has been held in a detention facility since Jan. 18 when he landed at Tokyo's Narita airport. O'Barry and his lawyer say officials accuse him of lying during his past visits to Japan. He denies that, and says he is a tourist.

O'Barry starred in "The Cove," which won the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary. In it, dolphins get herded by fishermen into a cove in Taiji, Japan, and speared to death, turning the waters red with blood.


Officials and fishermen in Taiji have defended the hunt as traditional, saying that eating dolphin meat is no different than eating beef or chicken.

Immigration officials do not comment on cases.

O'Barry has vowed to keep at his effort to save the dolphins.

As the dolphin trainer for the "Flipper" TV series, he has long felt responsible for dolphin shows and aquariums. He regularly visits Taiji.

"They are trying to shut me up. But they are creating a tsunami of attention for this issue," he said in a telephone call earlier this week from the detention facility.

O'Barry, 76, said the officials questioned him daily in what he described as an effort to get him to fall for trick questions and end up confessing to wrongdoing.

"It breaks my heart to be deported," he said. "I never violated Japanese law. I never lied to Japanese authorities."

He said he felt weak and had not slept well, adding the food at the detention center did not agree with him so he ended up eating candy bars and chips.

The lies he is alleged to have told immigration officials were technical, he said, such as initially saying he wouldn't go to a demonstration when he went, but that was because at that time he had not yet been invited.

He was also initially accused of having ties to anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd.


O'Barry heads his own group Dolphin Project, which aims to peacefully protect dolphins worldwide.

"This is a slap in the face to the freedom of speech," O'Barry said. "But this has not shaken my love for Japan."

Story: Associated Press