Activists fail to stop capture of dolphins

November 29, 1993
Marine Independent Journal

 Chicago's Shedd Aquarium successfully captured three Pacific white-sided dolphins about 50 miles southwest of Huntington Beach without interference from animal-rights activists, who had threatened to disrupt the collection.

 The animals-one male and two females-were netted between Santa Catalina and San Nicolas islands Saturday and taken to San Diego, where they will be held in a small tank until they acclimate to captivity. They then will be flown to Chicago for display and breeding at Shedd.

 The aquarium managed to capture the mammals without being detected by the animals-rights coalition, which used two boats and an airplane to comb the waters off Orange and Los Angeles counties for the dolphin hunters.

 The search boats included the Ladyhawke, a yacht donated by Richard Donner, producer of "Free Willy," a film about a boy who releases a killer whale. Donner had threatened to include the dolphin capture in "Free Willy II'" if Shedd did not back off.

 The dolphins captured Saturday "appear to be in excellent health," said Debra Fassnacht, a spokeswoman for Shedd. "We did an external exam when they were caught, and we've sent out blood samples for analysis. Fassnacht said, however, that one of the dolphins might be pregnant. If so, the animal will be returned to the wild and another one will be captured.

 Two dolphins were released Saturday because they were the wrong sex. Shedd officials were surprised by the quickness with which they captured the dolphins. They had expected the capture to take days, and possibly weeks, because they can't try to net the dolphins unless it rides the wake of the capture boat.

 The capture upset Jerye Mooney, marine mammal coordinator for the Fund of Animals, a New York-based group that opposed the collection. "The capture was shrouded in secrecy, which is typical of the aquarium industry," Mooney said. "They don't want the public to see the animals screaming and thrashing around.

 Yesterday, about a half-dozen protesters demonstrated at the holding tank there the dolphins were being held on San Diego's Shelter Island, said Jim Robinett, the aquarium's curator of marine mammals. The protestors yelled threats and obscenities at seven museum staff members inside the facility, and some demonstrators walked on the facility's roof, Robinett said. He said be called San Diego police to disperse the demonstrators

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