To help fulfill 2009 TED Prize winner Sylvia Earle's wish to create a global network of marine protected areas, TED held a five-day conference aboard a ship in the Galapagos, called Mission Blue, bringing together scientists, leaders, artists, concerned citizens and philanthropists to educate them about the problems facing our oceans and develop concrete solutions and plans of action. This interview with Fisher Stevens, producer of The Cove, is the first in a series of exclusive interviews for The Huffington Post from the conference. In this interview, Fisher gives us the latest updates about the dolphin slaughter documented in The Cove and what's next for this ocean-loving activist filmmaker.
Katherine Goldstein: Congrats on your Academy Award win. Can you update us on the latest of what's happening in Taiji, where the dolphin slaughter you documented in The Cove took place?
Fisher Stevens: : So right now the season of dolphin hunting is over, but it will be starting again September 1st. Last September 1st we had quite a bit of press. For the first four to six weeks, they didn't kill any dolphins. Some dolphins were taken to [sea animal theme parks] mostly throughout Asia. When the press attention died down, we got reports that they were killing the dolphins again, but not in the same numbers, though. Then the press came back -- they were doing the killing outside of the cove, which is good news and bad news. The bad news was they were still killing them; the good news was that they weren't able to kill as many.
KG: You are planning to screen the film in Japan. What are you hoping will come from it?
FS: We're pushing hard for a May 15th release date -- we've created a Japanese version and translation. We're going to have a window of free distribution in Japanese cinemas. We've also edited a little bit to make it slightly less horrific.
We want to keep the pressure on and the momentum going. We're going to be on Oprah on Earth day, April 22nd, which will help a lot. Obviously, the Japanese don't want westerners telling them what to do, so we have the goal of enrolling as many Japanese organizations, NGO's and government officials as possible, and Takepart.com is working on that effort.
KG: You are here to film Sylvia Earle's TED wish, which is to use all means to create protected marine areas which she terms "hope spots." Tell us about your next documentary project.
FS: We're not totally sure what the film is about, but it's about Sylvia. I'm not a science person, I'm more about what's exciting for an audience, and helping the planet, and Sylvia embodies that. But I'm interested in helping scientists tell their stories. They have so much to offer and say, and they aren't getting their message across -- it's my responsibility as a filmmaker to do that in an entertaining, lively and informative way. Hopefully we can wake up the world to what's going on with our oceans.
KG: Why do you think the problems facing our oceans get so little attention?
FS: I think part of it is that we've only explored five percent of the whole ocean. The average depth is 12 meters. There are many people who aren't connected to it at all, and many other people make their living from it, which makes it more complicated. Corporations are using the ocean in a bad way, and they just don't want you to know [about the destruction they are causing]. The fact is that we need [the ocean] to live; the ocean is as important as our air. Something like one out of every two breaths is fueled by plankton. I see it as a goal to make people understand. Louis Psihoyos, the director of The Cove, is obsessed with plankton. We have to make plankton sexy.
KG: I think part of the reason The Cove resonated so strongly with people was because people had an emotional investment in the dolphins and what happened to them. Who are the players that you think people will feel strongly about in this film?
FS: Sylvia is a compelling and inspiring character like Ric O'Barry in The Cove. She doesn't have the same guilt issues that Ric does -- her only guilt is that she has this knowledge, and she wants to get it out. To watch Sylvia underwater, you realize she's not a normal human; she's like a fish. She obviously has a deep love of the oceans, and it's her life's work. Sylvia manages to be optimistic despite a lot of bad news. She's really a pioneer. She's watched the devastation of the oceans and made it her life's mission to stop it. So you surround her with these marine biologists, who you show as real people, not nerdy scientists, and you add in animals, some comedic relief, and famous people adding their voices and their faces, and I think we'll get the message across. I'm not saying that this trip is going to change the world, but it might make a little bit of a dent.