Thursday, March 12, 2015


US contact : phone : 760-840-0414
European  contact :  phone : +353 851 880 138

 Mar 12, 2015
The tragic death of former Marineland Mallorca dolphin trainer Jose Luis Barbero has highlighted an important limitation in transparency and accountability for the training and holding of dolphins in captivity.  A WSB-TV news story revealed the shock of Georgia Aquarium visitors at seeing a video of trainers kicking, hitting and yelling at dolphins during training sessions. The public's shock comes from its expectation that those in control of captive dolphins are ensuring their well-being and that the types of acts illustrated in the video would not occur out of public view.The public’s expectation of dolphin well-being may not, however, be a reasonable one; without aquarium protocols to encourage the reporting of dolphin mishandling or even abuse, like the ones shown in the video, their well-being cannot be ensured. Neither the Georgia Aquarium nor Marineland Mallorca has made any statement that it provides to its employees and volunteers a mechanism for the reporting of abuse or mishandling of the marine mammals in their care. One volunteer at the Georgia Aquarium stated that no such reporting protocols were identified during the extensive, multi-day training for volunteers. Georgia Aquarium CEO Mike Leven’s statement that it has a “zero tolerance policy” against the mistreatment of any of their animals is encouraging, but policy, to be credible, is supported by protocol, not just words spoken during an interview.Meanwhile, it has been over a month since the release of the first video taken of dolphin maltreatment at Marineland Mallorca, and the Georgia Aquarium has not released the forensics evaluation of the videos that it committed to performing, leaving with the public its suggestion that the video was “doctored”, even though it stated that it had preliminary results as early as March 8.   The advocate community joins the public in extending continued condolences to the family of Mr. Barbero.  This community recognizes that marine animal trainers must have ready access to mechanisms for reporting instances of inappropriate training.  The tragedy of Mr. Barbero’s death must not be compounded by ignoring the clear need for reporting and, perhaps, counseling for members of the training community.VIDEO:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

HOW WE GOT HERE - The Death of Jose Luis Barbero

Prepared by Thomas Gainard, Michele Bollo, Steve Christianson
US contact : phone : 760-840-0414
European contact (french/english) :  phone : +353 851 880 138
Dolphin trainer identified in abuse video found dead in Mallorca of apparent suicide.
07 March 2015

José Luis Barbero, a senior dolphin trainer, was identified by a group from around the world who intended to expose the truth of what occurs “behind the scenes” between dolphin shows at Marineland Mallorca.  
It has been brought to our attention that lawyers and an investigator from the Atlanta-based aquarium were sent to Mallorca to investigate and were given information last weekend that a new video existed, which was released 2 days ago  Please see our previous press release for more context on the video. We believe Mr. Barbero was made aware of the second video before he went missing on Tuesday morning. 
Spanish media has reported that Mr. Barbero has been found today, deceased in his car at Mallorca Airport.
We view the death of Mr. Barbero as a terrible tragedy, and extend condolences of the most sincere kind to his family and friends. It should be clear that our effort is not focused on Mr. Barbero, but with Aspro Occio’s Marineland Mallorca, which has allowed the mistreatment of dolphins by not one trainer, but several.  

Mr. Barbero resigned from his position in Marineland with the prospect of becoming the new Senior Vice President at Georgia Aquarium in February.  

The first video provided to and released by the Spanish organisation 
SOSDelfines quickly made the rounds on the internet, which prompted Georgia Aquarium to launch an investigation, while putting Mr. Barbero’s hire on hold.  IMATA (International Marine Animals Trainer’s Association) also launched their own separate investigation, after making a video statement. [since removed from their website]
The question that begs to be asked in the coming weeks is how could this happen and what are the events that led to such tragedy?
The  focus on the unfortunate nature of the story points to the need for transparency and accountability from within the industry.  
  • Did Marineland Mallorca know about the negative training sessions, and the creation of a hostile work environment?  What measures did they take to modify that situation? Were they aware other trainers had adopted the same methods that Mr. Barbero utilized?  
  • If Marineland knew, via complaints or otherwise that there was a problem, how could that not be conveyed to the Georgia Aquarium during their “exhaustive vetting” process?  Ironically, GA is conducting an investigation now, too late to impact the situation.
  • How does IMATA pave the road to reporting misbehavior, protecting those that report situations from retribution?   How does IMATA become a penetrating and effective organization for acting on behalf of the humane treatment of dolphins that exists within their protocols and mission statement?   How do they plan to protect those reporting situations of dolphin mistreatment?