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Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Dolphin facility brings
threat of Maui boycott

Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU -- Film producers Richard and Lauren Donner say they will make good on their threat to call for an entertainment boycott of Maui after the county approved the development of a site that includes an institute housing captive dolphins.

The Donners, who have produced or directed about 28 films, including the "Free Willy" series of movies, said they will place ads within the industry and call people in entertainment about excluding Maui as a place for film productions.

"I can't believe that in this day and age, they're going to imprison dolphins," said Lauren Donner. "It's sad. It's archaic."

The loss of a single film production could mean tens of millions of dollars in lost spending, she said.

County Planning Commissioners yesterday approved permits for a 29-acre "family educational theme park" which includes the relocation of the Dolphin Institute from Kewalo Basin on Oahu to Kihei in South Maui.

Commissioner Randy Piltz said he approved the request because of the educational value of the Dolphin Institute and the large number of people who supported the project.

Some 130 letters were sent in favor of the project, as opposed to 55 against it, according to the county.

Asked what he thought of the Donners' plan for a boycott, Piltz said, "It's too bad."

Adam Pack, co-founder of the Dolphin Institute, said he has not read Donner's letter.

"It appears he's unfamiliar with the type of work we do," Pack said.

Pack said that besides providing a program enabling college students to earn graduate degrees, the institute has served as a major information source for the media.

He said movie stars such as Michael Douglas and Robin Williams have used the institute's facility in documentary films about dolphins.

Pack said it was cutting-edge research by the institute that contributed to a better understanding of dolphin intelligence and a greater appreciation of dolphins which has helped in the fight against their slaughter in tuna nets.

Institute officials said that according to their research, the four captive dolphins are likely to die if they are released, and the facility at the 1-acre lagoon at the park will provide them with 10 times more space than the present facility at Kewalo Basin.

Lou Herman, another institute co-founder and a University of Hawaii professor, assured the commission that the institute will not obtain more dolphins and will breed the dolphins it already has in captivity.

Richard Donner said that in his future films, he plans to place a sticker saying: "See Maui. See the dolphins in prison."

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, developer of the project, plan to take about six months to a year to complete the design for the Maui Nui Park and a year to complete building.

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