About Activist Richard O'Barry


Marine Mammal Specialist, Earth Island Institute

Richard O'Barry has worked both sides of the dolphin street, the first 10 years with the dolphin captivity industry, the past 38 against it. 

Working back in the 1960s for Miami Seaquarium, O'Barry captured and trained dolphins, including the five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular American TV-series of the same name. When Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper most of the time, died in his arms, OʼBarry realized that capturing dolphins and training them to perform silly tricks is simply wrong.

From that moment on, O'Barry knew what he must do with his life. On the first Earth Day, 1970, he founded the Dolphin Project, dedicated to freeing captive dolphins who were viable candidates and educating people throughout the world to the plight of dolphins in captivity. He launched a searing campaign against the multi-billion dollar dolphin captivity industry, telling the public what was really going on at dolphin shows and urging people not to buy tickets to see dolphins play the fool.

O'Barry has rescued and released more than 25 captive dolphins in Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas Islands and the United States. His more than 45 years of experience with dolphins and his firsthand knowledge about the methods used to capture and train them has taken him all over the world to participate in lectures and conferences about the controversial dolphin captivity issue. As he knew it would, this created a lot of hostility toward him by those who stood to profit from the continued exploitation of dolphins.

"They're in this for money. Take it away, and they'll quit doing this," OʼBarry says and adds: "Dolphins are free-ranging, intelligent, and complex wild animals, and they belong in the oceans, not playing the clown in our human schemes."

To recognize his contribution, in 1991 OʼBarry received the 'Environmental Achievement Award' presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program (US/UNEP).

His book 'Behind the Dolphin Smile' was published in 1989, a second book, 'To Free A Dolphin' was published in September 2000. Both of them are about his work and dedication.

O'Barry is a Fellow National in The Explorers Club, a multidisciplinary society that links together scientists and explorers from all over the world. Each member is an accomplished individual with at least one fascinating story to tell.

In January, 2007, O'Barry became the Marine Mammal Specialist for Earth Island Institute and Director of Save Japan Dolphins coalition: www.SaveJapanDolphins.org