Hi, I'm Louie Psihoyos, the co-founder of the Oceanic Preservation Society and the director of the "The Cove," the 2009 documentary about a secret lagoon in Taiji, Japan, where every year thousands of dolphins are hunted for the captive dolphin trade or slaughtered.

I and the creators of the film "Blackfish" recently challenged SeaWorld to a debate over keeping orcas in captivity and also helped uncover the world's largest endangered species slaughterhouse in China. I'm currently directing OPS's next film, "The Heist."

I'm here to take your questions about anything and everything related to my work, AMA.

PROOF I: https://www.thedodo.com/community/LouiePsihoyos/im-louie-psihoyos-director-of--409656627.html

PROOF II: https://twitter.com/CoveMovie_OPS/status/428985778677354496

UPDATE: Thank you so much for taking the time to ask questions. It is inspiring to hear how The Cove and our work at the Oceanic Preservation Society has inspired you all. To learn more or get involved, please visit the OPS site and read my posts at TheDodo.com. Thanks!

Comments: 130 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

gmans_aunty20 karma

Hi, Mr. Psihoyos! I'm 8yo now (and I'm here w/my mom), but I saw The Cove two years ago when I was six. It really upset me when I heard what they were doing in Taiji. Mom and dad didn't think I should watch the film, but I really wanted to see it because I love all cetaceans! After watching the film, I wanted to create a website just for kids so that they, too, would know what was going on in Taiji. What information do you think would be important to include on my site? Do you think letter-writing campaigns by kids my age help to stop this kind of thing? And are there any other places in Japan that these cetacean killings are happening?

Thanks for doing this IAmA!! Mom thought I would find it interesting, and she was right. :-)

LouiePsihoyos9 karma

Aw, so nice to hear from you. I love your mom!

That's a tough one, isn't it? Kids should know that some people eat different kinds of animals in different countries -- however dolphin meat is toxic, contaminated with mercury.

I'd suggest including information about Blackfish, seeing The Cove -- but don't have your mother let you watch Earthlings. She'll hate me. I think letter writing campaigns do help. People listen to kids -- their minds aren't spoiled yet. .

And don't go to dolphin parks because they're supporting this kind of activity and animal abuse.

Thanks for your question!

gmans_aunty10 karma

Thanks for answering my questions!!

I'll make sure to include the info about mercury. Who should kids address their letters to if they write a protest letter about Taiji??

I haven't seen Blackfish yet (mom showed me the trailer a little while ago), and she's already said I shouldn't see Earthlings. She and dad will probably watch it though, and just tell me about it.

Yeah, I don't go to the Baltimore Aquarium anymore because I've seen The Cove. And I don't want to go to Sea World anymore either. I do, though, want to go to Clearwater, FL to see Winter. :-) I saw Dolphin Tale, and I think it's awesome that they were able to help her get a prosthetic tail, and it was nice of them to find her a friend even though it's a deaf dolphin!

LouiePsihoyos7 karma

My pleasure. Thanks for participating.

If you're not too busy copy and paste your letter to every Japanese consulate on this site and have your friends do the same.

Misdreagus11 karma

What's the best way we at home can help?

LouiePsihoyos9 karma

Thank you. You can visit http://www.opsociety.org/ for ways to help. There was a good post of Everything You Can Do To Stop Taiji’s Dolphin Hunt that has good ideas, too.

birdele10 karma

Hi, thanks for your work! I saw The Cove after seeing Earthlings and then I watched Blackfish a couple weeks after that. What an emotional ride that was.

If you could change one thing about the world today, what would it be?

LouiePsihoyos12 karma

To be honest, it'd be for everyone in the world to see Earthlings. It's an extremely tough movie to make. It makes The Cove look like a Disney film. But once you see it, you don't have to talk about animal rights anymore, you've created advocates for nature for life.

Iama91410 karma

What was the worst thing you saw while shooting the movie?

LouiePsihoyos13 karma

I was hanging from a cliff in the cove in camouflage and saw a pod of dolphins circling their young to protect them and then the fishermen came and selected two for the captivity trade and slaughtered the rest. There was nothing I could do, but I said to myself, "If there is a god, let their lives not be wasted in vain." And those are the opening scenes of the covert footage in The Cove. And I'm still haunted by that today.

EcoBob9 karma

With all the publicity this issue is now getting do you think an end of the Taiji dolphin hunt is near?

LouiePsihoyos7 karma

Hi, thanks for the question. Yes, I think it's near because foreign governments are starting to ban the import of wild dolphins for dolphin shows. And when you see laws get enacted that it becomes a part of the social fabric.

lpssakura8 karma

Hi mr Psihoyos.

First of all, an immensely huge thank you for your continuous work. I'm a marine biologist in the making (fourth year of university), and this is something that keeps my fires burning. I saw The Cove back in 2010 and since then I have been raising awareness everywhere I go. I have two questions I really hope gets answered (and not buried, as many of my raise awareness posts have been).

First, do you believe that the Japanese (and other people that slaughter cetaceans) will ever stop this practice, and what needs to happen to make them stop?

Second; here in Scandinavia (I'm from Sweden) there are quite a number of activists. However only after four years of raising awareness, did I actually encounter them (other activists I've met have been exchange students). They seem to be a very silent group. I want to change this, but I don't know how except ask for your assistance. Is there any chance that you and Ric O'Barry could come here for a screening/seminar session? Obviously, there is an interest to raise awareness of the matter, but it's awfully quiet. What's more disturbing is that many people still go to dolphin shows here, and actually rejoice somewhat whenever a dolphin is born in captivity...

Your work is very much appreciated, so please continue!

LouiePsihoyos7 karma

First I think it will stop. The technique we're using is called gaiatsu, which means outside pressure to create inside pressure for change. So if you're in Scandinavia, and know a politician for support for what we're doing, like Caroline Kennedy's tweet, is helpful. Her tweet forced the Prime Minister of Japan to respond. So get your politicians to write.

Second I believe Ric is going to Sweden very soon. Get in touch with me via OPS and I'll give you his contact info. I've been to Sweden twice for this issue. Sorry I missed you!

Thanks for joining the fight.

poupinettel8 karma

Hi louie, the cove have been an inspiration for me and it is what turned me into an activist, currently we are filming undercover in a dolphinarium in europe where dolphins are being trained by being kicked and hit with sticks etc, once we have enough evidence, what do you suggest would us to do to have the biggest impact ?

LouiePsihoyos3 karma

Social media can help spread these stories, so get a clip online and share it with The Dodo and other media outlets. Videos like this can change the world.

brunub7 karma

Hello Louie! Welcome to reddit!

What first brought the issues in question to your attention? What lit this fire for you?

LouiePsihoyos6 karma

When I went to Taiji with Ric O'Barry as a journalist and because the Japanese fisherman and the government wouldn't talk to me. I left there as an activist. I realized that these animals wouldn't have a voice unless i took my journalism hat off and became an activist.

mmontgo6 karma

What kind of preparation went into filming "The Cove"? How do you prepare for filming both documentaries in general as well as the graphic footage one encounters in "The Cove"?

LouiePsihoyos2 karma

The Cove is my first film -- I'm not much to give advice that way. I try to take all the tools I think I'll need when I go on assignment -- everything from hidden cameras to full on movie cameras. Most of that footage that we encountered was documented with hidden cameras that we set and went back to retrieve each day -- we didn't know what was on there until we pressed replay. Thats when the horror hit. The funny thing is, when I was hanging from that rope my crew had gone back to bed -- we hadn't slept for 2 whole days. While they were sleeping, they were shooting an academy award-winning film and they didn't even know it.

mrchipslewis6 karma

Hi Louie, I'm a huge fan and follower of yours. I still remember the day I first watched The Cove and the impact it had on me when I was in grade 11. Now I'm in second year of University studying and practicing film. What really opened up my eyes as a film student was these words of yours in an interview: "film is the most powerful weapon in the world, you can use it to sell popcorn and get ten dollars for a ticket, or you can use it to change the world". Since then I've thought about how I could make a difference using my own skills as an artist, and it was all because of you starting back in 2009.

Here is my question: How is your upcoming documentary coming along, The Singing Planet/The Heist? (Also interested about the name change). Does it really cover the worldwide extinction of all species, and did you go all around the world getting footage? And thank you for everything you've done and continue to do, you are a true inspiration.

P.S. I thought Blackfish was really good as well, and I was glad to see you supporting it on the side with Gabriela. Also, I'm glad that you're still working with Ric O'Barry. I sincerely hope the Taiji dolphin slaughter ends in his lifetime so that he can find at least SOME peace.

LouiePsihoyos4 karma

I think it's going to be a really good film, and I'm being modest here, but it's going to make The Cove look like a warm-up act. We don't have the actual name for the film yet, but I'm hoping it'll come to me in a dream. It's about extinction of species, but it's really a thriller, an eco-thriller, like The Cove. If The Cove was Oceans 11, this is Oceans 12. The team is back together, most of the same production team, too, which is extraordinary.

shewhorunswithseals5 karma

Hi Louie, I'm a huge fan of yours. I was working the Ivory Crush event at Rocky Mountain Arsenal and was too nervous to talk to you... and you looked very busy and hard at work. Was your footage of the Ivory Crush for the Heist or is it a new project?

As a fellow Coloradan and marine biologist, you inspire me and keep up the good work!

LouiePsihoyos6 karma

Right now the footage is is being used for the movie. The U.S. government crushed 6 tons of confiscated ivory tusk. Next time say hello! -- Colorado has more certified divers per capita than any other state in America -- if the earth keeps on heating up we'll be a beach front pretty soon.

JannetOrtiz5 karma

Hi Louie! I just wanted to thank you for all the hard work you do for animals. You are one of my inspirations and I really admire you. Thank you for everything & keep up the amazing work!

LouiePsihoyos2 karma

Thank you.

raquelrae4 karma

Is there anything activists can do to help regarding the current captures of orcas that have been placed in a Russian dolphinarium for the upcoming Olympics? Is there hope that they can be released? And what is the current status of Angel, the albino dolphin captured recently in the cove?

LouiePsihoyos4 karma

There's always hope, but I'm not sure what it is. I was shocked that they are not just getting orcas, but they have dolphins from Taiji. And that's the problem, that they are hoodwinking the unsuspecting dolphins that they are "rescuing" these dolphins.

Angel is still sitting in the tank with two other dolphins at the Taiji Whale Museum and has not been eating well. I just saw a video of it this morning and it is in a pool smaller than the average backyard swimming pool. Sadly, without its mother it will likely not survive long whether in captivity or the wild.

thewaybaseballgo4 karma

How has "The Cove" impacted the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji? Are they taking less dolphins than they previously were?

LouiePsihoyos10 karma

We reduced the slaughter in Taiji by about two thirds. I sent a copy of the Japanese version of "The Cove" to every household in Taiji and every Japanese consulate in the world.

bl3w1s3 karma

How is your upcoming documentary coming along? I'm also curious as to why you changed the name. Have you been traveling all around the world for it? Must be pretty difficult trying to encompass world wide extinction.

LouiePsihoyos2 karma

It's a working title. The Cove didn't come to us until just a few weeks before Sundance. We just screened the film for a major festival, which will remain unnamed, but they said it was the best environmental documentary they had ever seen. But we are still shooting the ending, so it's not done yet.

We have been to about twenty different countries to tell this story. A few of which I won't be able to go back to anymore.

EcoBob3 karma

Do you think whales and dolphins should have a bill of rights and if so do you think it ever happen?

LouiePsihoyos5 karma

Yes and yes. There's currently a proposal put forth by Remus Cernea in the Romanian government, which has two dolphins on their national seal, to give dolphins personhood. And in May he's going to propose the same bill to the European Union.

People may think it's weird to give animals personhood, but you have to remember that humans are animals, too.

Frajer3 karma

Do you find that The Cove is inspiring people to stop poaching?

LouiePsihoyos5 karma

The film has reduced the demand for dolphin meat in japan by about two thirds, so we're saving about over 1000 animals a year -- and all throughout Japan several thousand. I would love to think that you make a film and the issue is solved, but unfortunately movements take years. It's been 50 years since the surgeon general warned that smoking was bad for your health -- 50 years later you can't smoke on a plane. Hopefully with social media now, it won't take 50 years.

Felpeh2 karma


LouiePsihoyos4 karma

You don't change someone's mind first. You change their heart. Once you change their hear, their mind follows.

justaskquestions2 karma

Approximately how long was the shark "slaughterhouse" in business before it's uncovering?

LouiePsihoyos3 karma

We don't know, unfortunately. But enough to kill 600 whale sharks every year.

For other readers, we just busted the world's largest endangered species slaughterhouse.

Hopefully we helped put a stop to that one operation. But there were at least four operating in the town of Pu Qi.

heathurrz2 karma

Hi Louie! I cannot thank you enough for your work to save dolphins and make a difference on this Earth. I'm happy to see the truths about Taiji finally coming to light as this issue is gaining a lot of media attention. However, the same tragedy (which I feel doesn't get nearly the same media attention) is occuring in the Faroe Islands and also around other parts of the world. Do you feel as if these are your next obstacles to tackle if the dolphin slaughter in Taiji comes to a halt?

LouiePsihoyos5 karma

Ric O'Barry lives in Denmark half the year. He's working on that issue and he feels that it's really just the old generation eating pilot whale meat in the Faroes. He feels once that group dies off, so will the tradition. I realize that's a horrible thing for those pilot whales to have to be dying at a rate that the old people are dying, but I think it's the kind of issue that can only be solved over there. A lot of that has to do with education -- that meat is toxic too, all pilot whale meat is toxic. I met with Ric this last week, we're talking about doing some sort of advertising campaign to really push the mercury awareness out there.

[deleted]2 karma


LouiePsihoyos2 karma

Yes, http://www.savejapandolphins.org/ and stipulate that it goes to the Japanese fund.

Lcwoodard2 karma

Why can't the cove guardians use boats to put themselves between the dolphins and the fishermen as Sea Shepherd does with the whalers

LouiePsihoyos2 karma

Good question. I actually just had lunch with Capt. Paul Watson today. Because the Cove Guardians are working within the territorial limits of Japan, they have to operate under Japanese law. And below 50 degrees latitude in the Southern Ocean, they say there is no god, much less laws.

coryteague2 karma

What has been done/is being done to get the IWC to recognize small toothed whales under current whaling laws? What is the reason for not including them?

LouiePsihoyos2 karma

Because the whaling nations that put together the laws have an interest in not putting them on the list, because some of them are still eating them, like Japan.

The IWC is split almost down the middle, so when you have a law that is going to irritate one side, it creates a divide. So it is a dysfunctional organization, just like our own government.

NoSecretsHere2 karma


LouiePsihoyos2 karma

America is right up there in the top 5.

Here's the thing: Right now, we're burning so much fossil fuels we're physically changing the nature of the ocean. We're warming the poles, we're warming the oceans and we're changing the chemistry, by making it more acidic. For example, we're making it physically impossible for oyster larvae to live in the northwest because of the acidic environment. We're dissolving reefs, too. Anything with a carbon structure is having difficulty forming right now.

[deleted]1 karma


LouiePsihoyos5 karma

Yeah I think so. What gives me hope is social media -- I think people now more than ever can be enlightened -- at the speed of light. In the last week, I've seen the issue light up with governments -- 5 governments came out against the slaughter. Starting with Caroline Kennedy's tweet -- the tweet heard around the world. This is a very, very difficult time for bad guys to try to hide -- with social media and full activation. The eyes of the world are constantly looking. The kind of evil that you see in the cove can't stand the light -- there's nothing like the light of social media to light up some of society's darkest ills.

Hannehanne1 karma

Hello, I'm a 23 yr old girl from Belgium, currently living in Barcelona. I really respect your engagement in the anti dolphin and whales slaughtering. I feel a profound love for the sea and its creatures, and like many others your movie made a deep impression on me, it still does until now. I would love to do something useful. Do you know of any possible work available concerning helping these animals? I want to combine my Communiation and PR skills with doing something valuable such as helping these awesome animals. They should be rescued and I want to help.

Thank you and good luck in all you do for the sea an its animals which belong there :)

LouiePsihoyos1 karma

Thank you. It's important to figure out what you're really good at and then find ways to use that to help the cause. When you can combine what you're good at with your passion, that's when your work isn't just a job. Good luck!

briandeeds131 karma

Mr. Psihoyos, thank you for all the hard work you have done on this topic and your work with Ric and Lincoln. 2 questions...

  1. Is there some sort of economic plan that could be presented to these fisherman that work in the cove to show them that it can be and is more profitible to say create a whale and dolphin watching in the wild business or somthing to that extent? (obviously there is a steady population near by)

  2. Do you expect some of the momentum of "The Cove" to carry over to help raise awarness for "The Heist" and when and where can we view that?

LouiePsihoyos4 karma

Thank you.

  1. Right now they're making too much money off the captive dolphin trade. Although I think that doing dolphin watching would pay better than dolphin fishing, it's the captivity industry and their relentless demands for dolphin that drives the dolphin slaughter. The capture industry is the economic underpinning for the dolphin slaughter.

  2. Yeah -- I think we have a following now, of people who are advocates for the environment who are eager to see what we're doing next. I'm just as excited for the next film as these fans are -- what we want to do is increase the audience by incredible magnitude. Very few people actually saw The Cove. I'd say for every 10 people who wanted to see it -- only 1 actually has. People are scared. Once people break through and actually see the movie they say "oh this is what they've been talking about." I think The Heist could rise above this poor cousin status of any documentary. I want it to be a blockbuster -- even by Hollywood's standards.

George Clooney told me The Cove was better than Oceans 11. I wish the film made as much as they made in popcorn on their first night in theaters. There's one scene that people are afraid of in The Cove -- We're not going to make The Heist inaccessible the way The Cove is. Any successful movie is going to have to bring you to a low point so it can lift you up higher -- we're going to take you about as low as you can get in a movie, and the we're going to lift you up higher. We're going to show you what the human spirit can do when we work together. The aim of the film is to show people that we need to change the world. And we can do it. It's possible. We're at a point in history where we're the only generation alive that can save the planet for future generations. Otherwise it's going to be too late, you're going to leave a degraded environment for the rest of humanity. That's empowerment -- it's up to us. It's you and me, no one else.

omgponies21 karma

In addition to not buying tickets to amusement parts and dolphinariums and other attractions with captive marine mammals, what would you recommend as the next best action a person could take to advocate for an end to the slaughter/capture?

I saw The Cove at the Hot Docs premiere in Toronto and it remains among the most significant and impactful experiences I have ever had so thank you for the good work that you do.

LouiePsihoyos1 karma

You could sign petitions -- they do help. This is the one I'm supporting now. I tell everyone to see "Blackfish" and "The Cove." Every person who sees those films suddenly becomes an advocate for the issue.

RavenLee4251 karma

First of all, thank you for making The Cove. It really changed the way I saw dolphins in captivity, especially having lived in Florida where it seems to be the norm.

My question though is have you had any major companies reach out to you to offer support? Maybe funding or distribution? Something we as normal, everyday people can support?

LouiePsihoyos5 karma

Thank you. You can visit http://www.opsociety.org/ for ways to help. There was a good post of Everything You Can Do To Stop Taiji’s Dolphin Hunt that has good ideas, too.

_julia1 karma

What or whom first inspired you to become an advocate for marine conservation?

LouiePsihoyos4 karma

My buddy Jim Clark -- the guy that really did start the internet -- was my dive buddy. We've been watching the degradation of the oceans before our very eyes. And we went to the Galapagos and we saw fisherman illegally fishing for sharks in a marine sanctuary. We decided right there to do something about it -- to start a non profit organization. To not just create awareness, but to inspire people to save the natural environment. The most beautiful thing I've ever done in my life is put my head underwater -- and see an alien universe right in this earth. "The Cove" was our first film -- Jim financed that film. We made that film in my backyard -- it wasn't a big production by Hollywood standards. I really felt I could be delusional trying to make a movie. When I saw that it resonated with people, it convinced me more than ever that I'm on the right path to making films that'll help the environment.

Dabee6251 karma

What did you think of the episode of Family Guy that references your movie?

LouiePsihoyos3 karma

What's Family Guy? :)

ihadsexwithyourdad-4 karma

Have you ever tried dolphin?

LouiePsihoyos3 karma

No. I used to be pescatarian, but I no longer eat any animal products. It would be like eating a human being. Have you ever tried Presbyterian?