Has someone, uh, crossed the line at NOAA-NMFS-2012-0158?

Litigation support firms often hire temporary workers to assist in various aspects of legal matters.  From lawyers and paralegals to copiers and data entry operators to file managers and box movers (litigation can create a lot of documents, kind of like the number of comments on the Federal Register notice), these firms are hired by law firms to do some of the big volume work involved in litigation.  The litigation support firms are, in turn, hired by law firms, who are hired by others.

Aquariums and marine parks, too, hire lots of kinds of workers.  As we learned, during this year’s hearing concerning the Occupational Health and Safety Administration action against SeaWorld (which SeaWorld LOST), many of their workers have no special degrees that uniquely qualify them for work with marine mammals.  No, the trainers, by and large, are not marine biologists, as most elementary, junior high and high school aquarium attendees think, when they say, “I wanna be a trainer!”

Two hours before the hearing regarding the Georgia Aquarium beluga import permit

Are these “interested parties” in the sense of regulations developed for access to public hearings?

So perhaps it should come as no surprise, when the aquarium/marine park industry “marries up” with the legal, including litigation support, industry, that there might result an assortment of individuals involved who have not only no special qualifications (many of us have no more than a dogged commitment to learn from the actual experts, like Dr. Naomi Rose and Dr. Lori Marino the facts surrounding how marine mammals fair in captivity) for their involvement, they also have no awareness of the issues involved that would merit their description as “interested parties.”

Elizabeth Batt’s October 13, 2012, expose of the presence of unknown individuals standing in line really said it all, and described the marine mammal advocate community present that day.  Ric O’Barry was the first to inform us that those standing in line were not there on their own behalf, but seemed to be there as place-holders for the aquarium industry.  When approached to find out which organization they represented (I could not believe that was Mr. O’Barry said was true.  After all, that would be highly irregular if not more if they were paid to displace the positions of actual interested citizenry), I was informed by someone ostensibly acting in a role of “supervisor” that I could not speak to those in line.  That I could not ask them questions.

Well, of course, that is not true.  While it appears to have been true that they may have been under a restriction to answer, I was not restricted to ask.  This is, after all, America, which prides itself in not only protecting the right of free speech, it also provides a process whereby interested persons are provided an opportunity to have a meaningful role in the decisions of our government, just like the one before NOAA.  The Administrative Procedures Act and the regulations promulgated by NOAA are intended to provide the interested public with access to the process of permit review such as this one.  As stated by NOAA on the webpage devoted to this issue: “NOAA Fisheries will hold a public meeting to inform interested parties of the proposed import and solicit comments on the application and accompanying draft EA.”

It really does not take a rocket scientist to know that those standing in line were not “interested” in the subject matter of that public hearing, and the practice – whether common or not – of hiring individuals to potentially bar those “interested parties” from attending a public hearing?  Well, I’ll leave it at, I think it “crossed the line.”  Yea.  I said it.  Pa dum pump.

So who hired these people?

I’ve already phoned one marine park, whose answering machine offered their reservation line, in case I was calling to book a vacation to swim with a dolphin.  I’ll try back tomorrow.  And won’t be calling that reservation line.

Unlike the 70 or so people standing in line in front of me, I am interested in the outcome of this application.  And you should be, too.  Please submit your comment, on the NOAA website, in opposition to the Georgia Aquarium’s application to import 18 wild beluga whales from Russia.  As I’ve said before, make it the most commented-on Federal Register Notice ever.  And at over 5,000 comments, I think we might be there.

Keep them wild.  Keep them free.  Keep them out of the United States.

Beluga whales in the ocean

Beluga whales are not suited to captivity. They die prematurely in captivity. Simply looking at this picture, you will instinctively know why.

Leave a Reply