TOKYO (AP) — The star of the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove,” about a dolphin-killing village in Japan, has been detained by immigration authorities at Tokyo’s Narita international airport.
Ric O’Barry, the former dolphin trainer for the “Flipper” TV series, said immigration officials barred him at the airport Monday and told him he couldn’t enter Japan on a tourist visa because he wasn’t a tourist, according to his lawyer, Takashi Takano.
Takano said officials accused O’Barry of having close ties with the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, which O’Barry denies. O’Barry is the director of Dolphin Project, which is dedicated to the protection of dolphins worldwide.
Immigration officials said it is their policy not to comment on individual cases.
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Takano said he appealed the detention, and that the Japanese government will decide whether to allow O’Barry into the country or deport him. The timing of the decision isn’t clear, but is expected within the next several days.
Takano said O’Barry’s treatment sent a negative message about Japan.
“It seems to show Japan does not allow critical views,” he said.
“The Cove,” which won the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary, shows dolphins being herded into a cove in the fishing village of Taiji and then speared and bludgeoned to death.
“The Japanese government is cracking down on those who oppose their war on dolphins,” O’Barry said in a statement sent by email to The Associated Press through his son, Lincoln O’Barry.
Officials in Taiji, a small village in central Japan, and fishermen have defended the hunt as traditional, saying that eating dolphin meat is no different than eating beef or chicken.
Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat, and many say they are horrified by the dolphin killing and have joined the campaign against the Taiji hunt. Animal welfare activists say the dolphin hunt is driven mostly by the lucrative sale of live dolphins to aquariums, with the income from meat sales a smaller extra.
O’Barry has been stopped and questioned at Japanese immigration before, and has been temporarily taken into custody by local police on suspicion of not having proper travel documents. But this is the first time he has been detained in this way.
He has the support of high-profile celebrities, including Sting, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum.
Dolphin Project online: https://DolphinProject.net
Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at twitter.com/yurikageyama
Her work can be found at: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama