Project ANIMA is a Japan based organization with a small but mighty team.

In the coming months, once we have gathered the necessary means (fiscal support, donations…), Project ANIMA will evolve into a Foundation or a Trust so it has the leverage to collaborate with , marine parks and dolphinariums throughout Japan who are interested in retiring their animals to the sanctuary.

The future foundation will also collaborate with local scientists, veterinarians, former dolphin trainers looking for a professional reconversion, experts in animal communication, and volunteers to provide care for the animals in the sanctuary and respond to strandings.

Leina Sato

Founder – Ocean lover, Freediving Instructor, International Speaker, Author and Mother

Read my story here

And the trailer of the documentary film “The Journey” (Mère Océan) by directors Anne Paris & Jan Kounen, relating my love of the Ocean through the story of my pregnancy in the presence of dolphins and whales in the wild. 

Michiko Kamesaki

Founding member – 

My love for the ocean developed in my mid twenties, as I started free-diving to meet sea turtles.

After witnessing them in the open sea, my experience of marine parks and aquariums changed drastically. My desire to see marine animals thrive in their natural habitat intensified.

Project ANIMA works in collaboration with Ocean Seed Foundation (oceanseedfoundation.org) a Hawaii USA-based 501c3 non profit organization focused on promoting Arts, Sciences and Spirituality for the Sentient Ocean and its wildlife. 

Ocean Seed Foundation will serve as a bridge between international supporters (scientific and policy advisors, sponsors etc…) and our Japanese organization. 


Marine Mammal Policy Expert, BSc Wildlife Biology, MSc Psychology

Courtney Vail, founding executive director of Lightkeepers Foundation, is a biologist, social scientist and strategic policy advisor who has worked within the conservation and animal welfare field for over 30 years.
Courtney has been at the foundation and forefront of the whale and dolphin sanctuary movement, serving as an advisor and collaborator to several other sanctuary projects over the last decade, including the Whale Sanctuary Project, National Aquarium, and Iceland Beluga Whale Sanctuary. Her work to advance whale and dolphin protection globally has spanned most of the world’s oceans, including global campaigns to end whale and dolphin hunting, fisheries bycatch, captivity and other threats to these incredible creatures.  

Abigail Alling

Marine Mammal Scientist, Founder/CEO of Biosphere Foundation

For the past 3 decades, Abigail has been actively engaged in marine conservation and environmental projects. She received a Masters of Science degree from Yale University and was the former Director of Marine Ecological Systems and Assistant Director of Research and Development for the ‘Biosphere 2’ project.
In 1987, she participated in the successful rehabilitation and release of two captive dolphins led by the Oceanic Research Communication Alliance, alongside Ric O’Barry. The story of the release project can be seen here:

Rick Bennett

M.S., Ph.D. Microbiologist 

Rick worked as an associate research microbiologist at the University of California, Davis from 1974 to 1978. 
He went on to become their Natural Resources and Public Policy Advisor, as well Environmental Science Advisor from 1978 to 1999, during which he developed and tested methods for field water quality evaluation and conducted baseline research on the water quality in urban and agricultural watersheds.
Today, Rick is president of Applied Life Sciences, a consulting firm specializing in science applications and communications for health and environmental interests. For the last twenty years, he has been actively involved in ocean water quality studies on the Kona Coast of Hawai’i. He is also the chairman of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and Science Advisor to the Hawaii Community Cultural Education Foundation. 

Michiko Kamesaki

Founding member –

My love for the ocean developed in my mid twenties, as I started free-diving to meet sea turtles.

After witnessing them in the open sea, my experience of marine parks and aquariums changed drastically. My desire to see marine animals thrive in their natural habitat intensified.

Soon after, the wish to encounter dolphins in the wild grew stronger and led me to the island of Ogasawara.

I ended up moving there with my family, surrounded by the vast ocean where dolphins and whales coexist peacefully with islanders. This relationship fueled by respect and the duty to protect and preserve gave rise to a feeling of profound love in me.

Inspired by Leina’s film “The Journey/Mother Ocean” in 2021, I joined a retreat to meet her, deepening my connection with the sea and my understanding of the dolphin drive hunts in Taiji.

Discovering the reality of the hunts and their connection to the captivity industry was a transformative turning point. It deepened my sense of connection with the web of life, reshaped my consciousness, and altered my lifestyle.

Today, I aspire to participate in the creation of a world where all beings live freely and happily.

Many years ago, I received a message from the humpback whales migrating to the island: “Move forward”.

I feel that my participation to Project Anima symbolizes that first step “forward”, guided by the spirits of the dolphins and the whales.

michiko kamesaki


Founding member –

20代の頃、ウミガメに会いたくてダイビングを始め、海が大好きになる 同時に、水族館にいる海の生き物達を見て、彼らが本来住む海にいられたらいいのに、との思いが強くなる。








大好きなイルカ、クジラ達とともに、仲間達とともに、このproject animaに参加することは、わたしにとっては、「その先」へゆこうということ。

Sae Katsuta


Founding member –














Sae Katsuta

Founding member –

I had my first experience of swimming with dolphins in the wild at the age of 20.

Following this encounter, I underwent an experience that I still cannot express in words – which lasted for over six months- leading to a significant shift in consciousness.

In October 2003, I learnt about an upcoming exhibition at the Nagoya Port Aquarium, showcasing orcas captured in Taiji in the region of Wakayama (referred to as the “Taiji 5”)
Upon hearing these news, my friends and I founded a citizen group to start an opposition movement in Nagoya, where I lived.

We were engaged in actions such as symposiums and collecting signatures for opposition campaigns
but I gradually started experiencing deep burnout and a sense of despair as my involvement grew, eventually leading me to distance myself from activism.
In 2019, while on the Big Island of Hawaii, I met Leina, a Japanese woman raised in France and in Hawaii.

As our connection deepened, I felt a renewed sense of hope about the possibility of change in Japan, in regard to the conditions of dolphins and whales

Rather than engaging in opposition movements or asserting one’s righteousness, I saw hope in promoting a new value system of coexistence with dolphins and whales through beauty and a creative approach.

The seed of this project has been germinating and evolving inside of me for over twenty years, as I held in my core the longing for a world where we can truly coexist with the dolphins and whales

Through Project ANIMA, this desire has manifested in a new form.
After participating in the grief ceremonies in Taiji in 2022 and 2023, my decision to be involved in this project as a core member feels simply natural and inevitable.