A great white shark captured for display at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, has died after three days in captivity.
This is not surprising, given the generally morbid conditions that exist in aquariums, conditions that do not come close to mimicking those in the wild. But the aquarium industry, with its peaceful music in many displays – and despite the blaring music in others – has managed, over its relatively short existence, to persuade consumers of entertainment that watching wild marine creatures in concrete tanks, or even plastic-lined tanks in traveling shows and exhibits, is acceptable treatment of these magnificent nonhuman animals.
It is not surprising since the aquarium industry has been in control, until fairly recently, of the “captivity message” that is doled out like baby’s pablum to an unsuspecting, and already humancentric, population.
Large aquariums and marine parks, like SeaWorld and the Georgia Aquarium, use their public relations and training staffs to carefully craft the message to a public who hasn’t the sophistication or knowledge to know that the message is, at best, skewed by well-placed omissions, and, at worst, a cobbled-together rubric of self-serving misinformation.
Many aquarium-goers are still ignorant about the true nature of captivity for marine mammals and other wide ranging marine animals, largely because they get their information from only, you guessed it, the aquarium industry. But this blogger is getting tired of giving aquarium-goers that “pass”. Even aquarium-goers (and I was one once, at the age of eight), have an internal sense of ethics, regardless of what Madison Avenue or the aquarium industry says. Even aquarium-goers can see with their own eyes that the tanks are:
- made of concrete
- infinitesimally small, compared to the ocean
- devoid of any natural attributes
They may not know that dolphins and whales swim in family groups, many of
whom never change over their lifetimes, while aquariums treat individuals as assets to be moved into whatever column and location serves the needs of the aquarium (e.g., Shaka, a dolphin captured in 1988, was brought to the Georgia Aquarium in 2010, but never incorporated into the show. She served as a football game predictor, so still handy for press opportunities. The Georgia Aquarium moved her to Florida, where she has now given birth to an “asset” of the aquarium.).
Other aquarium-goers, on the other hand, are aware, fully aware of the disparity between life in a tank and a natural life for dolphins and whales. They just don’t seem to think that dolphins and whales have a right to that life. They seem to think that their own “right” to see a dolphin in a tank trumps the rights of dolphins and whales to have something more than a concrete tank, a diet of dead fish, fresh water and gelatin supplementation to stave off dehydration, and drugs in the event the dolphins become ill.
Especially for the latter category of aquarium-goers (and swim-with dolphin freaks), it seems fair to “keep it real” by at least acknowledging that they know that dolphins and whales are being denied their birthright, and frankly, don’t care about that as much as they do about satisfying the instant gratification bone by seeing them in tanks. If aquarium-goers would acknowledge that they just don’t care, at least we could have a real conversation about what’s going on here.
So, for the aquarium-goers and swim-withers, I’ve provided a handy AFFIDAVIT below, which you can sign and turn in to your local aquarium on your next visit. Better yet, if you have been an aquarium-goer, but you now sense that something is rotten in SeaMark, then sign the affidavit, but make the necessary marginal edits to show that you know better than to believe the pablum and you will never again turn their stiles. Then turn it into your local aquarium.
For more information:
- Blackfish is available on Netflix. Catch it the next time it airs on CNN!
- Watch A Whale of a Business
- Watch A Fall from Freedom
- Stay tuned for the soon-to-be-released Born to be Free
- Stay tuned for the soon-to-be-released Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered