Tag Archives: animal captivity

The Georgia Aquarium and The Art of War

The Georgia Aquarium has announced that it will not appeal the decision of Judge Amy Totenberg in Georgia Aquarium v Pritzker.  Resounding huzzahs were heard in all camps of those opposing captivity.  Feelings nearing jubilation and celebration of victory were shared across social media.

The Georgia Aquarium fights to import wild beluga whales.

The Georgia Aquarium stands down on this phase to import wild beluga whales.

The Georgia Aquarium’s decision not to appeal, however, came as no surprise, and signals little more than that the management at the aquarium was listening to legal counsel.  Its chances of overturning Judge Totenberg’s decision were miniscule, if that.  And so the Georgia Aquarium merely decided that standing down on this permit appeal was the right decision in this war over marine mammal captivity.  The Georgia Aquarium claimed that the appeal would have been costly; this much is true.  It does not say that the appeal would have been futile, but that, too, is most likely true as well.

When the Georgia Aquarium acknowledges that continuing the appeal “would not be in the best interest of the animals in Russia,” it likely means something different than what marine mammal advocates consider “best interest.” Does the Georgia Aquarium intend to step away from its stated goal of creating “a sustainable population of belugas at accredited zoological facilities in North America?”  Notably, its statement did not go that far.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

We are waging a war against captivity. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

So, to the celebrants I say, as we claim a tactical victory, study the art of war.  Consider where and how this announcement plays in the overall war.  Know that this victory came as a result of little more than the Georgia Aquarium’s arrogance and feeling of entitlement at stealing wild animals from the ocean and importing them into the United States and of the system of laws working.  Appreciate the possibility that the Georgia Aquarium learned something valuable to itself in this war and how to play in the next battle, a battle that may not invoke a “taking”, a battle that may not involve a “Near Threatened” species.

Prepare yourself for the next battle.

Because it will come.

Beluga Cousteau quote

NOAA learns the Marine Mammal Protection Act

What some may consider a trifling matter, I find to be a “tell” of the thinking at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service.  One cannot say with certainty what this “tell” indicates, but since NOAA is responsible for defending its decision to deny the Georgia Aquarium a permit to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales, I can’t say whether I find the tell comforting or disturbing.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) states that

There shall be a moratorium on the taking and importation of marine mammals . . . during which time no permit may be issued for the taking of any marine mammal . . .. except in the following cases . . . MMPA Section 101, 16 U.S.C. §1371.

In contrast with the above text (that is, what the MMPA actually states), the MMPA does not state that there shall be a system to allow the importation of wild-caught cetaceans, which will be denied in only limited circumstances.   The gap between the actual language and this contrasting, but nonexistent, version highlights the purpose of the MMPA:  to protect marine mammals in their homes, in their habitats, with a primary objective to “maintain the health and stability of the marine ecosystem.” 16 U.S.C. §1361.

So, consider the two contrasting images of the NOAA webpage for the Georgia Aquarium’s request to import 18 wild-caught Russian beluga whales, the first taken on March 1, 2015, and the second, taken during the 2012 public comment period on the Georgia Aquarium’s import application.

NOAA website, image captured March 1, 2015, with an opening statement that is consistent with the MMPA.

NOAA website, image captured March 1, 2015, with an opening statement that is consistent with the MMPA.

Text in the above image correctly highlights the prohibitive nature of the MMPA, which provides “limited exceptions” for the taking of marine mammals.

Look, however, at the following image of NOAA’s opening statement on the same webpage, captured on September 6, 2012, during the public comment period of the Georgia Aquarium’s import request.  Perhaps you might agree that the message of the NOAA website reveals a basic misunderstanding of the MMPA, even if it correctly reflected that of, at least, the NOAA webmaster.

NOAA webpage, image captured September 6, 2012.  The opening paragraph paints a rather more permissive system of cetacean importation than the one defined by law.

NOAA webpage, image captured September 6, 2012. The opening paragraph paints a more permissive system of cetacean importation than the one defined by law.  Paints an “allowing” system, rather the existing “prohibitive with exceptions” system.

It is in these kind of details, or tells, that the mindset of government is revealed.  But lest I appear ungrateful, let me be clear that I am glad that NOAA is learning the MMPA.

I just  hope that it wasn’t too late for any one of the 18 beluga whales who were snatched from Russian waters.

We await the decision of the Federal District Court, heard in August 2014.

Celebrating Shark Week by going to an aquarium is speciopathic

Originally posted in 2012 under the title “Celebrating Shark Week by going to an aquarium is, well, abhorrent.” Reposted to correct for some unknown server error that only my site host can fix. 😀

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Yesterday, I finished watching the award-winning (31 International awards) Sharkwater again, this time via the nine 10-minute segments that are on YouTube.  And then gobbled up more shark and whale news at The Cyber Whale Warrior Daily Paperli.

I noticed that fellow blogger and publisher of the paper, Holise Cleveland, had posted something I said last year about Shark Week:

Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium is like celebrating Dog Week at an animal shelter.

I think I later added a “dog pound” to the “animal shelter” version because I felt that was a more apt comparison.  But it got me to thinking about that analogy, and I came up with a slightly different version; but one that’s getting even closer to how I see it.  See what you think:

Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium is like celebrating dog week by going to look at, but not trying to rescue, the dogs living their lives out in cages at a puppy mill.  And saying, “How cute!” as you walk to the next crate.

I know.  It’s longer, and not so clever or quotable, but more accurate.  Having re-watched Sharkwater, another Shark Week simile variant came to me that I feel is even closer to how I see it.  Maybe some people won’t like this version as much as the shorter dog comparison – in fact, it may seem a bit harsh:

How is keeping a child locked up in a basement qualitatively different from keeping a shark or whale in a tank?

Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium is like celebrating Children’s Week by looking into the basement window of your new neighbor and discovering a child being held against its will, having been torn away from its mother, its family and everyone it knew.

Even though held in a 10′ by 10′ room, with only electrical lighting, you notice that the child seems happy when the caregivers come to feed it.   And even laughs when one of the adults teaches it how to cartwheel in that small space.

Then you notice that there are people coming to the house, and you see that they are standing outside a door in the basement looking into the 10-by-10 room, at the child.  And you see the people paying the caregiver money to come look at the child.

You overhear an inquiry about paying a little bit more money for cartwheels.  And maybe paying a little more for an interactive program, like a swim-with.

Now, that’s what celebrating Shark Week by going to the Georgia Aquarium is like to me.  Pity I can’t tweet that one.

So I thought I’d put the question to you:  What is Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium – or any aquarium – like for you? 

How to Celebrate Shark Week this yearWe’re a couple of months out from Shark Week, and I have no idea what is planned for this year. One idea for celebrating Shark Week would be to write our favorite “Celebrating Shark Week” sayings on a poster board, and pay a visit to our local aquariums during Shark Week (in July) to share our message.  No doubt the aquariums will have some promotion.  Let’s have one of our own.  I, for one, plan to go with a few copies of Sharkwater.

Celebrating Shark Week at an aquarium isn’t celebrating sharks at all; it’s really celebrating People Can Do Whatever They Feel Like to Sharks Week.

Whale shark is the world's largest shark species. Photo by Brian Skerry at smithsonian.com

Whale shark is the world’s largest shark species. Photo by Brian Skerry at smithsonian.com

 

Dedicated to SeaWorld and the Georgia Aquarium

So, yes, with a measure of fun, I am questioning the factual basis of some of the assertions about dolphin and orca captivity from some dolphin-owning institutions. Assertions about the life spans in captivity being longer than ones in the wild (not true).  Or that the dolphins thrive in captivity (a little harder to quantify, but read on, not true).

Now, before you go all, “Oh, that Martha.  She’s so extreme.  Dolphins are fine in captivity, and there is a valid educational part of the dolphin shows” on me, just take a gander at the educational content of the dolphin extravaganza at the Georgia Aquarium shot by a visitor:

I’m figuring that you’ll be like most of us, including some members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that expressed annoyance, shall we say, upon their exit from just having seen the very same dolphin show.  I believe some of them observed that there was something like, oh, zero educational content in the show.  And I repeat, these were zoo and aquarium people who make their living based upon the acceptability of animal captivity, not we “fringe anti-caps.”

And to the point of whether dolphins like captivity, take a look at the celebration of life in wild dolphins:

compared with live streaming video of captive dolphins:

http://www.seewinter.com/winter/media/webcam-3

You’ll have to copy and paste that one in your url; it won’t link live.  It may be a bit of a bother, but believe me, you want to do this to see the whole story.  And if Winter isn’t visible on this web cam, check one of the other ones; Web Cam #1 is where she and her dolphin companion strut their captive stuff for the paying public.

Which side are you on?

To take action for dolphin freedom, just take one step. Call, write, blog, tweet, donate.  I’m betting you’ll see how great it is to stand for these extraordinary beings, and will take one more step after that.

Welcome.

No AT&T? No problem. No dolphin extravaganza either.

dolphinsdm_800x446

Where dolphins are home

Just a short status update on my transition from a supporter of dolphin captivity, AT&T.  In case you have missed it, AT&T is a proud supporter of dolphin captivity.  And I am not.

So, the relationship was doomed.  No matter how great the service was, or wasn’t, where there is an alternative, I knew one choice was right for me: leave AT&T and its Dolphin Extravaganza.  As Georgia Aquarium says, the most amazing show this side of Broadway.  Are you kidding?  Those dolphins, 10 of the 11 born into captivity, one wild caught, have a life that should look like the one above, but they live in small concrete tanks.  And will until they die, either prematurely, because dolphins do not live as long in captivity.  Or unmercifully, at an old age.  I am just not sure how the people who make a living from dolphin captivity sleep at night.  But one thing I’ll guarantee ya: the pillow where they rest their head each night was purchased by dolphin captivity; every night, 365 1/4 days a year.

And it gets worse than captivity, if death is worse.  The jury in my head is still out on that one.  But I’m leaning toward captivity being the far crueler and more unusual.

So now, instead of an iPhone3 with AT&T, I have an iPhone4 and FaceTime (!!!!), with Verizon.

Fewer dropped calls.  Truth.

And no dolphin extravaganza on my conscience. Or my pillow.

Now, how about that 2X4 from Home Depot?  Yep.  I’ve switched to Lowe’s.

Buh-bye AT&T – I don’t pay dolphin exploiters

Bernie Marcus, founder of Home Depot, has exported his “icon in the big boxes” to the aquarium concept and is hoping that “this sets the stage for future aquariums.”  The concept that killed small town America and mom and pop hardware stores has now targetted dolphins through a $110,000,000 dolphin facility.  The killing analogy is not off the mark, since dolphins and whales in captivity are known to have significantly shortened life spans relative to their natural, “loose and wild” counterparts.

I will not be attending.  I encourage you not to attend.  I encourage that you read and watch videos about dolphins and other cetaceans in captivity (here is a new interview with a trainer at Sea World, who will soon testify about the conditions for both the orcas and the trainers at that facility).   Learn what highly intelligent and complex creatures they are.  Read about the life-saving exploits of dolphins toward humans.  And think.  Think  about the education that your children get

The dolphin "smile" is misleading.  Use you own brain and ask yourself, "Do you really think they are happy in captivity?"

The dolphin “smile” is misleading. Ask yourself, “Do you really think they are happy in captivity?”

about dolphins at Sea World or at the Georgia Aquarium.  That dolphins can jump really high, and do flips, let trainers ride them in the water, toss balls in the air, and they are really happy-looking?  All of that disgusts me.  That we would compromise the life of a creature to pay admission, be amused and call it education.  But I am  encouraged.  A bit bemused that Georgia would add an aquarium when they are on their way out.  But on their way out they are.  And that is a good thing.  A very good thing.

So in the meantime, AT&T will lose me as a customer.  Join me.  Do this for the dolphins.

Here is a list of the sponsors of the Aquarium or the dolphin show:

  • AT&T                          Air Train                      Coca-cola
  • Georgia Pacific         The Home Depot        The Southern Co.
  • Sun Trust                   Turner Broadcasting  Accenture
  • UPS                             Publix                            Clear Channel
  • Unisys                         11Alive.com                  Acuity Brands
  • Microsoft

How many of these can you take out of your shopping cart?