Protecting Dolphin Mind and Culture

Millions of dolphins dying in the modern fisheries holocaust.

Dead Baby Dolphin Entangled in a High-Seas Driftnet. Photo from Earthtrust

Charles Lumsden's essay about Evolving Creative Minds discusses an issue which might well vex evolutionary psychologists interested in creativity, and which also deals with developments in the area of culture, electronic media, and psychology. Dolphins create some very novel works, but some of the species themselves might well be ephemeral. Research by me and by my colleagues at the Earthtrust Laboratory at Sea Life Park Hawaii has shown dolphins to be self-aware creatures, fitting in this way in the same category as humans and the great apes. People have speculated for decades that the millions of dolphins dying in the modern fisheries holocaust might be some kind of conscious creature, possibly suffering in the massive slaughter. Our research confirms this fear.

Yet the U.S. Congress in 1997 unanimously passed a law known to conservationists as the "Dolphin Death Act". In a word, it lifts the U.S. boycott on tuna caught by killing dolphins. People seem to be completely unaware of this.

The cultural-evolutionary conundrum is this: How can we have a planet with human society able to study and detect the horrors it is committing, yet not be able to communicate the problem so that it can be solved politically? The same thing is happening to the dolphins now that happened to the buffalo in America a century ago: Out there, in the vast oceans (/plains) that most people never see firsthand, dolphins are being slaughtered literally by the millions in the tuna fishery. In the 2000's we will be scratching our heads wondering what happened to the dolphins, just like we did with the buffalo.

To learn more about the tuna-porpoise problem, visit Earthtrust's website.

The informative one-hour program "Where Have All the Dolphins Gone?", about the tuna fishery, narrated by George C. Scott, is also available from Earthtrust. Donations are welcome.

Dr. Ken Martin: Testimony to Congress on Dolphin Death Bill

Ken Marten Ph.D. Cetacean Research Biologist, and Former Porpoise Observer on Tunaboats, U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service
Director of Research
Earthtrust - Project Delphis
25 Kaneohe Bay Dr., Suite #205
Kailua, HI 96734
Ken Marten

Contact information (Ken Marten Ph.D.)