U.S. animal rights activist Ric O’Barry, star of “The Cove,” an Oscar-winning documentary about the fishing village of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, where dolphins are trapped and hacked to death, has been ordered to leave Japan.
O’Barry, the former dolphin trainer for the “Flipper” TV series, was detained upon arrival Monday at Narita airport.
Authorities decided Friday to turn down his appeal to get into the country, according to his son, Lincoln O’Barry. His son and lawyer say immigration officials accuse O’Barry of lying during questioning and having ties to the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, both of which O’Barry denies.
Immigration officials said they cannot comment on individual cases.
O’Barry heads the Dolphin Project, which aims to protect dolphins worldwide. He regularly visits Taiji, the fishing village portrayed in “The Cove,” which won the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary. In the film, dolphins get herded into a cove and speared to death, turning the waters red with blood.
“I’m incarcerated, on trumped up charges,” Ric O’Barry said in an email provided by his son. “In a world where so much that is wild and free has already been lost to us, we must leave these beautiful dolphins free to swim as they will and must.”
Ric O’Barry has refused the deportation order and was transported to another detention facility near Narita airport, his son said.
O’Barry’s lawyer, Takashi Takano, who visited him earlier Friday, said O’Barry was alone but in good spirits. The government was expected to issue a formal warrant and physically deport him, Takano said.
O’Barry has been questioned by Japanese immigration before, but this is the first time he has been detained and barred from entry.
The immigration officials questioning O’Barry are arguing they can’t believe him because he has lied to them before, such as by saying he wouldn’t attend a Tokyo event called Japan Dolphins Day in August last year, when he ended up going, according to Takano.
Officials and fishermen in Taiji have defended the hunt as traditional, saying that eating dolphin meat is no different than eating beef or chicken.