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The Student Voice Of Contra Costa College, San Pablo, Calif.

The Advocate

Dolphin Project activist visits Monterey Bay

84 year-old activist Ric O’Barry brought his non-profit “The Dolphin Project” to the Bay Area on Oct. 12, 2023 in collaboration with Monterey Bay Whale Watch.

The strong smell of salty sea water wafted through the air as passengers filled  Monterey Bay Whale Watching boats with high hopes of meeting their hero. 

Activist and former dolphin trainer Richard “Ric” O’Barry, brought his non-profit to the Bay Area to further his message of anti captivity.

Monterey Bay Whale Watch photographer Morgan Quimby described her time on the fundraiser trip and meeting O’Barry in person as “surreal.” Quimby has been following The Dolphin Project and its cause since she was a young girl. It all started in middle school when she saw “The Cove,”  a documentary by O’Barry about the dolphin drive hunts that still go on to this day off the coast of Taiji, Japan. 

Drive hunting is a practice where pods of dolphins are driven into an area and trapped with nets. The prettiest are picked out to be shipped to marine parks all around the world and the rest are slaughtered for their meat. O’Barry and the Dolphin Project are currently in the process of a legal battle to stop these hunts.

“It took off from there,” Quimby said. She can remember telling other students about the information she learned from this documentary, and making posters to put up all around her middle school. “Seeing that film at a young age I think really started me on the path that I am on now.”

Fellow passenger Peg Buckner also attested to the film’s power. Buckner stated that she was “blown away” by the film when watching it on television many years ago. 

“Most people don’t know what happened to get those animals into the awful tanks,” Buckner said. 

The documentary left an impact on both Quimby and Buckner in a way that made them see the world differently. Buckner stated that it motivated her to educate friends and family on the dangers of captivity, while Quimby said it made her more aware of what is happening in the world. 

“We can be so focused on what’s happening around us and in our daily lives and there’s just so many things happening around the world that we may not even know about if someone like Ric and The Dolphin Project don’t bring it to light.”

The Dolphin Project has brought to light many things that one might overlook in their own city, even here in the Bay Area. Many who grew up in the region can remember a time they attended the Six Flags theme park in Vallejo, California; many have seen a dolphin show or two at the “animal kingdom.” Even O’Barry himself is familiar with the location.

“I know that place, I’ve protested there,” he said during the Friday whale watching trip. When asked about what Bay Area residents can do to combat this captivity and these shows, O’Barry said the answer is “quite simplistic, really.”

“The first step is to spread the message to not buy a ticket,” he stated matter of factly. “It’s supply and demand just like any other product.” O’Barry set the scene as this: if no tickets are sold, no money is then put in the pockets of those buying these animals from those who hunt and sell them.

Quimby attended a dinner the night on a recent nightwhere O’Barry shared more wisdom for those who want to make change for animals in captivity. When asked about what advice he would give to young activists coming up in his field, his response was not what anyone expected. 

“He said, don’t be like him – do something different,” she explained. 

“He’s like, ‘I’ve done the go to another country, get arrested. That’s not what needs to be done anymore,’” she continued. “‘Somebody has to figure out a new way to do it.’”

Although she was afraid of the age old saying “don’t meet your heroes,” Quimby said she could “happily say Ric is one of the most humble, down to earth people in this industry that I’ve met.” 

Buckner also was happy to report back, describing her time meeting O’Barry as “a dream come true!” She spoke with O’Barry for a while on the boat and even got a signature and a few selfies, which she said were the highlighted moments of her trip.

Despite all his accolades, Quimby described O’Barry as “just a guy” and explained that his  normalcy provokes inspiration. “It just makes you realize if you put your mind to something you can make change.”

Throughout the trips, passengers saw many common dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, and humpback whales. Buckner recalls seeing 500-600 common dolphins, and about 75 or so Risso’s dolphins. 

Quimby described a “really weird” encounter with a humpback that the Thursday passengers witnessed. She explained that the humpback was blowing intensely high towers above the surface and opening its mouth, “chomping in the air.” 

“What I think, is, it was a competitive male,” she explained, “there [were] two males, he was one of them, he was trying to compete for the third whale, the female,” Quimby said. 

Overall, the fundraiser trips raised over $16,000 for The Dolphin Project. 

“It was awesome to have everybody come from all over the world and spend the money on the trip to support the project,” Quimby said.

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Jolie Willson
Jolie Willson, Advocate Staff

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    EllieNov 2, 2023 at 3:30 pm

    Informative and inspiring!