About Us

Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is a campaign under the International Marine Mammal Project at the non-profit Earth Island Institute. The Dolphin Project aims to stop dolphin slaughter and exploitation around the world.  This work has been chronicled in films such as A Fall From Freedom, the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, and in the Animal Planet mini-series Blood Dolphin$.

Campaigns for dolphin protection are currently underway in a variety of locations around the globe, including the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Egypt, and Singapore.

Earth Island Institute

The Dolphin Project is a proud part of the Earth Island Institute, a non-profit, tax deductible organization founded in 1982. The Earth Island Institute has a long and active history in dolphin-related causes. In 1986, through the International Marine Mammal Project, EII organized a campaign to urge U.S. tuna companies to end the practice of intentionally chasing and netting dolphins with purse seine nets, and to adopt "Dolphin Safe" fishing practices to prevent the drowning of dolphins in tuna nets. This campaign included a consumer pressure, litigation, and revisions of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act.  In 1990 a major breakthrough was achieved and the first companies pledged to become dolphin-safe.  Today 100% of American tuna have become verifiably dolphin safe. Through the International Monitoring Program, the Earth Island Institute regularly inspects tuna companies to insure consumers that the tuna they buy is truly "dolphin safe."


Earth Island Institute is an umbrella organization with has more than 60 projects working for the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the Earth. For more information, please visit: www.earthisland.org

Staff:

Ric O’Barry, Campaign Director 

Richard O’Barry has worked on both sides of the captive dolphin issue, making him an invaluable asset in the efforts to end exploitation. He worked for 10 years within the dolphin captivity industry, and has spent the past 40 working against it.
In the 1960s, O’Barry was employed by the Miami Seaquarium, where he captured and trained dolphins, including the five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular American TV-series of the same name.  He also trained Hugo, the first orca kept in captivity east of the Mississippi.  When Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper most of the time, died in his arms, O’Barry 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 launched a searing campaign against the multi-billion dollar dolphin captivity industry and has been going at it ever since.
Over the past 40 years, Ric O’Barry has rescued and rehabilitated dolphins in many countries around the world, including Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas Islands and the United States. He is a leading voice in the fight to end brutal dolphin hunts in Japan, the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, and wherever else they occur.
O’Barry has been recognized by many national and international entities for his dedicated efforts, such as being voted Huffington Post’s 2010 Most Influential Green Game Changer, and being listed on O Magazine’s 2010 Power List – Men We Admire for his “Power of Passion.” O’Barry received an Environmental Achievement Award, presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program.  He has done countless interviews with such prestigious news programs as Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, the Mike Huckabee Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.
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.  He is the star of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove and the Animal Planet television series Blood Dolphin$.
In January 2006, O’Barry became Marine Mammal Specialist for Earth Island Institute, where he is also the Director of Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project and Save Japan Dolphins Campaign.

Dave Phillips, Executive Director 

Biologist David Phillips is Co-Executive Director of the Earth Island Institute, which he co-founded in 1982. He also directs the Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project.

David has been a non-governmental representative to numerous international marine conventions, including the International Whaling Commission, and has testified before the US Congress on marine mammal protection, endangered species conservation, and the impacts of trade on the environment.  His direction of the Institute was acknowledged by the United Nations Environment Programme, which granted their Leadership Award in honor of his efforts to protect dolphins from indiscriminate fishing techniques.  The Earth Island Dolphin Project's success in negotiating an agreement with the world’s largest tuna companies to adopt fully "dolphin-safe" policies was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the most significant environmental victories of the decade.

In 1995, David founded the Free Willy - Keiko Foundation, and was awarded the Joseph Wood Krutch Medal by the Humane Society of the US for his efforts on behalf of marine mammals. He has been involved in the development and implementation of numerous pieces of legislation pertaining to marine conservation, including the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act of 1990, the International Dolphin Conservation Act of 1992, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director 
Mark J. Palmer graduated with a BA in Zoology from the University of California at Berkeley, during which time he founded and led the Endangered Species Committee of California.

Mark has since served as Regional Vice President for the Sierra Club for Northern California and Nevada; Chairman of the Sierra Club’s National Wildlife Committee; and Chairman of the Sierra Club’s Arctic Campaign Steering Committee. He has been Executive Director of the Whale Center (1986-1990) and the Mountain Lion Foundation (1990-1995), before coming to Earth Island Institute.
Mark has more than 40 years of experience lobbying in the California State Capitol in Sacramento and in the U.S. Congress in Washington DC on wildlife and wilderness issues, as well as experience with the Japanese-American Environmental Conference, the International Whaling Commission, and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. He is editor of the daily newsletter ECO distributed at International Whaling Commission meetings. He was a consultant for the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove, and appears in the Animal Planet series Blood Dolphin$.


Mark Berman,  Associate Director

Mark Berman joined Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project in 1991. He previously worked as a volunteer advocate for Dolphin Safe tuna and to advocate for the ban on the captivity of cetaceans in marine parks in South Carolina. Mark led the successful campaign to halt construction of a large dolphinarium in South Carolina in 1990, and was instrumental in passage of a law in the state to ban the captivity of cetaceans. South Carolina is currently the only state with such a law in effect.


At Earth Island Institute, Mr. Berman assists in the direction of the International Monitoring Program for Dolphin Safe tuna, supervising staff in 15 countries. He also was a founding staff for the Free Willy Keiko Foundation in 1994 with David Phillips. Mark helped lead an unprecedented, five country program to rescue, rehabilitate, and release Keiko, the star orca whale from the hit movie Free Willy.

Mark also works with the European Dolphin Safe Monitoring Organization to promote and license the registered dolphin safe logo for the canned tuna processors, retailers and importers in the EU. In addition, Mark has recently worked on campaigns to end the drive fishery of dolphins in Japan, to halt the expansion of Ocean Adventure in the Philippines and the mass capture of live dolphins in the Solomon Islands for export to marine parks worldwide.


Mary Jo Rice, Associate Director 

Mary Jo Rice works with the Dolphin Project and the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign in the areas of educational outreach, volunteer and internship management, fundraising, event planning, grassroots organizing, and campaign planning and implementation.


Mary Jo is the former Executive Director of Seaflow, and she organized the North American Ocean Noise Coalition, bringing together more than a dozen national and regional environmental organizations to collaboratively address ocean noise pollution issues. She has also led a major open space acquisition effort in Marin County, which won her the designation of “Environmental Hero” in Barry Spitz’s book, Open Spaces. For her successful leadership roles in various environmental campaigns, particularly in protecting ocean life, she received the 2006 Resource Conservation Award from the Sierra Club’s Marin Chapter.

Mary Jo received a B.S. degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1974, graduating summa cum laude. She and her husband live at the edge of open space in the Marin County, CA hills, where they raised their two children.

Laura Bridgeman, Program Associate 

Laura has always been passionate about cetaceans and the natural world. Hailing from Ontario, Canada, where she obtained her degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from the University of Ottawa, she found her way to Earth Island in order to make significant contributions to the increasingly relevant dialogue about cetacean rights. She brings her many years of experience in environmental and animal rights activism to bear upon her work at Dolphin Project. She develops and leads strategic campaigns, employs grassroots activism and maintains a strong international presence for Dolphin Project through social media and news networks.