Japan to deport 'Flipper' dolphin trainer, activist Ric O'Barry

Japanese authorities said O’Barry was lying during interrogation.
By Elizabeth Shim  |  Jan. 22, 2016 at 11:32 AM
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TOKYO, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- An American animal rights activist who starred in an Academy Award-winning documentary on dolphin hunting in Japan is to be deported, but immigration authorities did not say why they did not approve his visa application.

Ric O'Barry, 76, who trained dolphins for the 1960s television series Flipper, had been detained since Monday, when Japan denied his request for a tourist visa, The Guardian reported.

Japanese authorities said O'Barry was lying during interrogation and charged that he was a member of Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation group that monitors activities in Taiji, the town featured in The Cove.

"[O'Barry] has no affiliation with Sea Shepherd. He's been doing this [activism] for well over 40 years," his son Lincoln told CNN this week.

Earlier in the week, Japanese attorney Takashi Takano was able to meet with O'Barry, but only in the presence of immigration officials.

According to Takano, officials said O'Barry had tried to enter Japan on a tourist visa, but he was not approved. No further reasons were provided.

O'Barry has traveled to Japan regularly since the release of The Cove. His son said O'Barry was planning to monitor the dolphin hunt, test dolphin meat for mercury poisoning and work with local activists.

An arrest last August for not carrying his passport did not deter O'Barry from traveling again. According to his lawyer, the activist has been detained every time he visits Japan.

If O'Barry were deported, he would be banned from entering Japan for five years.

International activists and Japan's dolphin hunters have been at odds since the release of the 2009 documentary.

Last May, Japanese fishermen defended the practice and vowed to never stop hunting dolphins.

Dolphin is a lucrative trade in Japan.

A live dolphin can sell for up to $100,000, which is a much higher price than hunters could obtain for dolphin meat – which sells for as little as $100.

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