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Allegations led to UH paying fine of $13,200


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POSTED: Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Federal documents obtained recently by a watchdog group show the University of Hawaii paid a $13,200 penalty last year for alleged federal violations at the former Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory.

Louis Herman, UH emeritus professor of psychology, founded the research facility in 1970 and was president and director of the Dolphin Institute, a nonprofit scientific and educational organization. He was fined $7,503, according to documents provided by the organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now.

Frank Perkins, UH vice chancellor for research and graduate education, said the university disagreed with findings of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service but negotiated a settlement to resolve the case.

The fines “;are virtually meaningless,”; said Michael Budkie, executive director of the watchdog organization. “;The death of the dolphins probably had more financial significance.”; His group asked the National Science Foundation for a permanent ban on funding of dolphin research at UH and/or to Herman.

Perkins said there has been no ban. He said the alleged violations were related to a UH research permit and an exhibitor permit. They generally concerned inadequacy of the facility and handling of the animals.

The researchers were studying bottlenose dolphins. One died in 2000 of an acute abdominal infection. Two females Herman brought here from the Gulf of Mexico when they were under 2 years old died from cancer in 2004, and the last dolphin, a 20-year-old male, died months later. A necropsy showed no obvious cause of death.

Herman was renowned for groundbreaking studies on dolphin intelligence, behavior, communication and sensory abilities. His research was often featured in National Geographic and other scientific publications.

The Kewalo laboratory was demolished last year by the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

Herman could not be reached for comment.