Dr. Jay Sweeney's Known Dolphin Captures Before Opening Dolphin Quest

Updated: Mar 4, 2019


Before opening Dolphin Quest, Jay Sweeney co-founded the second largest dolphin capture business in the USA, Dolphin Services International. While not all of his captures are known, we were able to obtain take records and documents on a few of them and, with the help of Animal Rights Hawaii, we've compiled them below.


TAIJI



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DISNEY EPCOT

6 Bottlenose Dolphins



  • Clips shown above (starting at 11:45) are from the documentary film "A Fall From Freedom." You can watch the full film here. "All six were captured in 1985 off Florida's west coast by California veterinarian Jay Sweeney."

  • The dolphins were named Bob, Geno, Tyke, Toby, Christie and Katie.

  • Geno drowned in a pool net in less than a year. (Source: National Marine Fisheries Service NMFS) 

  • "Bob was known to have aggression issues and was implicated in the death of Katie, who allegedly suffered with a lung condition."

    • In the wild male and female bottlenose dolphins don't socialize constantly, especially not in a confined space. Orlando Sentinel wrote "Bob roughhoused 12-year-old Katie, worsening her lung condition and leading to her death." 

    • In 1987, two more dolphins died just three days apart. They were suspected to be injured by Bob as well. "A 9-year-old female died of a brain hemorrhage and a 6-year-old male died after its vertebrae were fractured."

    • "Kym Murphy, Disney’s corporate vice president for environmental policy, told the Sentinel, 'Bob probably contributed to the 1987 deaths of two other dolphins at the Living Seas.'"

    • "Bob caused further issues when he was shipped to the National Aquarium in Baltimore in 2003. He died two years later.

Despite Epcot's inability to provide a safe atmosphere for their captive dolphins, Dolphin Quest shipped off one of their 5 year old captive bred dolphins to Epcot in 2005. A dolphin named Malabar.


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NATIONAL BALTIMORE AQUARIUM


Excerpt from "People Promoting and People Opposing Animal Rights: In Their Own Words"
  • Jay Sweeney captured two dolphins for National Aquarium in Tampa Bay, Florida. The governor at the time, Bob Martinez, told press that the animals were trucked across the state without the proper transportation permit. To evade Sea Shepherd, Sweeney had moved the capture location to Tampa Bay while the permit issued was for Charlotte's Harbor.

  • The dolphins were taken to Hawk's Cay Resort to go through a holding period with plans to then ship them to the National Aquarium. These holding periods are done with almost all wild captured dolphins, as it can take up to a few months for them to begin accepting human touch and consuming dead fish.

  • The dolphins were reportedly ill and suffering from skin lesions so the executive director for the National Aquarium refused the animals, saying they were "too introverted" to be on display. At this point the state wanted the release of the animals but the aquarium refused.

  • One, a dolphin named Benny, died just three months after capture while still being held at Hawk’s Cay Resort. This death angered animal activists and Governor Bob Martinez. Sweeney blamed the death on a "skin infection when it was captured" and told press the animal "was slow to adapt to captivity."

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FINLAND

  • Jay Sweeney reportedly captured dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico in Florida with the Director of the "Dolphin Research Center" (another dolphinarium), Mandy Rodriguez in 1984.

  • "Ric O'Barry explains that marine mammal dealer Dr. Jay Sweeney held the capture permits in Florida for the six wild-caught dolphins in the 1980s before the practice was banned by NMFS."

  • In a letter to NMFS (shown above), Sweeney writes that Happy died "because he refused to eat dead fish."

  • The other five dolphins arrived in Finland in 1985.

  • The conditions of this dolphinarium were described as "deplorable," "despicable," "unnatural conditions," by others in the industry. In regards to the two dolphins born into captivity at the facility, Ric O' Barry stated, "the dolphins now need constant medical attention. They have never seen a live fish, never experienced the tide, never seen a seagull overhead, never even seen the sky. They are freaks that we have created for our amusement. They were created for corporate profit.”

  • Thanks to tireless efforts by activists for three decades, the facility closed in 2015 because people stopped purchasing tickets.

  • There are only four dolphins left, two surviving dolphins from the six captured in Florida and the two captive born who are now "afflicted with a captivity-related blood disease known as hemochromatosis."

  • In 2016, the dolphins were sold to a Greek dolphinarium and transported discreetly during the middle of the night.

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Image scan from Jordan Waltz of a photo by Henning Christoph found via Ric O' Barry's Dolphin Project.

INDIANAPOLIS ZOO


Sweeney was hired by Indianapolis for dolphin captures in the 1980s. He also allegedly imported false killer whales from Taiji for the aquarium's display.


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SHEDD AQUARIUM

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Jay Sweeney was reportedly hired in 1988 to capture 8 Pacific White Sided Dolphins. 3 were released and 1 died. The other 4 were transferred to Shedd. 

  • "Jean-Michel Cousteau commented on the 1993 capture of three Pacific white-sided dolphins by the Shedd Aquarium: 'There is much that is troubling about the Shedd capture. Once housed at a marine yard in San Diego, the animals were initiated into ‘desensitization’ procedures, which, in the words of Shedd literature, is a ‘calm and comfortable process’ designed to ready the hypersensitive white-sides for their trip to the midwest. In fact, it is a two-week-long ordeal of force-fed dead fish and stretcher habituation that involves shedding much of their natural behaviour, in the interests of survival, in a swimming pool thirty feet across and eight feet deep.'”

  • "Captured 3 belugas in Churchill in 1989, the two kept were shipped to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma Wash in chartered cargo plane There they joined Tacoma's three adult belugas captured in Churchill in 1984. The two Shedd whales will remain in Tacoma until sometime next summer when they take up permanent residence in the Shedd's Oceanarium." -Chicago Tribune

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IKI ISLAND
  • Jay Sweeney allegedly collected 2 bottlenose dolphins in 1989 for Miami Seaquarium. One died in 1991 and the other in 2000.

This is what Iki Island's captures looked like during that time.


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OTHERS

Early 1986- Sweeney allegedly captured three dolphins. He sent two to Marineland and one to Switzerland.


Source: Ellie Roche, a permit specialist at the fisheries office, talking to News Press in 1986.