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Article About How The Cove Has Changed People’s Attitudes Towards Captive Dolphins Mentions Participant Media

By YVETTE CABRERA, COLUMNIST THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER   Documentary filmmaker says his goal was to raise awareness about treatment of dolphins. And he did.   School’s out and, like many parents, Vanessa and Tom Lewis of Fullerton are making plans to keep their two young sons busy this summer. In July, as they have for the past several years, they’ll head to San Diego to attend the Comic-Con convention. While there, they’ll also squeeze in a little San Diego-area sightseeing, places like Balboa Park and a local maritime museum.   One San Diego place they won’t hit this year — SeaWorld.   Last summer, the couple saw “The Cove,” an Oscar-winning documentary that depicts the capture and slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. The movie focuses on a technique used in Japan and some other island cultures called “dolphin drive’ fishing. Typically, drive fishing works like this: A group of fishermen find a pod of dolphins and, using sound and other tactics, force the dolphins into a small cove or beach. The fishermen then trap the animals in the area by cutting off their escape routes to the open ocean. Finally, after letting the frantic dolphins live in the confined space overnight to calm down, the fishermen kill them one by one and sell the meat for human consumption. But some dolphins captured in drive hunts are allowed to live and, according to many who oppose the practice, are sold off to marine parks, such as SeaWorld.   “I was just horrified, just traumatized,” says Vanessa Lewis, who went on Facebook to share her reaction to drive fishing.   For its part, SeaWorld denies being a customer of drive-hunted dolphins.   SeaWorld San Diego spokesman David Koontz says the park has not collected any animals from the wild for 25 years and, before that, it followed all laws about animal collection. Today, he says, about 85 percent of SeaWorld’s 40 bottlenose dolphins were born in captivity. But that may not be the point.   Though both Tom and Vanessa say they grew up going to SeaWorld (“I remember going as a kid to SeaWorld and being excited to see the Shamu show. Where else can you see a huge Orca jumping out of the water?” says Tom.) they won’t go this year because they believe being an audience for captive marine mammal acts is part of the problem.   “…After seeing “The Cove” it really makes you stop and think about it,” says Tom.   Such awareness is exactly what “Cove” director Louie Psihoyos was aiming for.   He says the documentary, released theatrically in the summer of 2009, wasn’t a box office smash. (Not surprising, he says, noting that documentaries are the Brussels sprouts of cinema.)   But over the last two years “The Cove” has gained momentum and, he says, it’s done “phenomenally well” as a rental.   “I told the crew we’re not trying to create a movie, we’re trying to create a movement,” Psihoyos says.   “And it seems to be happening.”   Through Participant Media, which has organized a social action campaign around the film, millions have signed Facebook petitions or donated to groups like the Earth Island Institute. Some are helping to save dolphins internationally.   Many children have written to Psihoyos’ organization, the Oceanic Preservation Society, saying they want to take on animal rights issues or become marine biologists. It was heartening, he says, that when he spoke at a community event this week in San Raphael that the audience was filled with children.   “In my dream of dreams I could only imagine that it would have this kind of effect on kids.” For many parents, a summer vacation that includes a learning experience is a plus. Who wouldn’t want their child to learn more about marine life, our ecosystem and even the environmental dangers faced by dolphins? All are fodder for discussion at SeaWorld. But what do we gain by watching dolphins in captivity?   Wildlife behavioral biologist Toni Frohoff says not much.   Frohoff, a leading expert on dolphin-human interaction who has spent more than two decades studying swim-with-dolphin programs around the world, says when people pay to play with or watch captive dolphins they are supporting a barbaric system.   “We can try to justify it all we want… But that’s the harsh reality,” she says.   Instead, Frohoff urges people to see dolphins in their natural habitat – a more enriching (and technically accurate) experience than watching a dolphin jump through hoops. Frohoff, a founder of the Santa Barbara-based TerraMar Research, a nonprofit created for the study and protection of wildlife and the environment, points out that in the ocean “a dolphin can be a dolphin.” For Tom and Vanessa Lewis watching “The Cove” triggered an ongoing dialogue with their sons. Their eldest has seen the documentary and hasn’t asked to visit SeaWorld lately.   And their youngest?   They say they’ll take him to the park again, someday. Then, when he’s old enough, they’ll show him “The Cove.” After that he can make up his own mind.   http://www.ocregister.com/articles/says-305526-dolphins-seaworld.html