Op-Ed: Bad PR and lies for new Qatar dolphin facility

Posted Sep 23, 2013 by Elizabeth Batt
A newly planned dolphin aquarium in Souq Waqif, Qatar, lied about a National Geographic sponsorship and then launched an incredible display of bad PR.
At the end of August and in preparation for opening, Qatar Dolphin Discovery & Research (QDD) announced on its Facebook page that its new marine mammal show was being sponsored by the National Geographic Society.
The announcement immediately raised several red flags after learning that the temporary lease dolphin show was being run by Ukrainian company NEMO or Nerum LLC, a business that has purchased and imported dolphins captured in the cruel Taiji dolphin drives.
Requests for denial or confirmation were sent to NatGeo's media office on Sept. 16 and 19, but went unanswered. Finally on Sept. 20, the National Geographic Society issued the following statement:
The National Geographic Society is unfamiliar with Qatar Dolphin Discovery & Research, and has not provided sponsorship support. Our name and trademark were used on their Facebook page without our knowledge or permission.
So why did Qatar Dolphin Discovery & Research lie?
One can only assume that an endorsement from one of the leading research and conservation organizations in the world would legitimize Qatar's planned display and future endeavors.
The executive director of Qatar Dolphin Discovery used to be Kareem Maghraby, a dolphin trainer who informed me that he left QDD in June 2013.
It was no surprise to see the sponsorship statement soon disappear from the company's social media page. What was a surprise however, was the responses issued to the public; they incorporated perhaps the worst PR ever noted. A sample of these responses, courtesy of Emma Morris, can be seen below:
Emma Morris
Emma Morris
Emma Morris
Emma Morris
Lessons learned
The Taiji dolphin drives which were featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove, run between September to March every year. Last year, according to, 1,486 dolphins from six species were driven into the cove.
Compared to earlier seasons, where up to 90 percent of the dolphins captured were slaughtered, around 58 percent of animals were killed last year. Due to increasing global demand from the captive industry, the number of cetaceans captured for public entertainment is increasing, while the slaughter percentage is decreasing.
So for Qatar Dolphin Research to say it rescued a few from death is nonsensical. Were it not for the demand by companies such Nero/Nerum LLC, many conservation groups believe that the dolphin slaughters in Taiji have a real shot at ending.
In an article written Sept. 2, by Courtney Vail of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Vail explained, "The high prices paid for live bottlenose dolphins are a powerful incentive to continue these hunts in Taiji."
Vail also noted how organizations are complicit in perpetuating one of the worst dolphin slaughters on the planet:
Although bottlenose dolphins may be spared slaughter for just the month of September through an official agreement brokered by WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquaria) and JAZA (Japan Association of Zoos and Aquaria) which seeks to distance the captivity industry from the actual killing in the cove, this 'dolphin management protocol' does nothing to address the continued collusion of the captivity industry in underwriting the slaughters that occur in Taiji.
There are lessons by visitors to be learned about the shenanigans of the captive marine mammal industry. Entertainment parks are profit-based enterprises, and their primary goal is always to make money.
To highlight that dolphin slaughter is not acceptable, a group of concerned dolphin advocates are planning coordinated action against Qatar Dolphin facility by hosting a Tweetstorm on September 25.
Qatar Dolphin Discovery & Research may not have the savviest PR team, but the basis for their reasoning is one commonly touted by many marine parks.