Tag Archives: Dolphins

Why DO people like “Blackfish”?

James Franco has “analyzed” the appeal of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s award-winning film Blackfish and has what I’ve seen characterized as some interesting observations.  His theory is that Blackfish delivers on a dark underbelly: it dishes out blood without the guilt.

While he may be onto something about those who go to the shows at SeaWorld who may have a secret, lurking, black desire to see some violent orca-on-human behavior, much as those who go to the circus might secretly hope for the tight-rope walker to need that net, I’m thinking that doesn’t explain the appeal of Blackfish.

Rather, what resonates is the universal truth that all living beings share, which is a desire to live a fully-expressed life. What comes through is our ability to have walked on a darker side of life, to have contributed to a machine of which we were but vaguely aware or perhaps quite aware, to have been even an integral part of that machine, but to be able to truly undo, to redo, and to redress.  What comes through is celebration and redemption: something that even SeaWorld could embrace if it chose.

The dark side of Blackfish? I’m not sure there is one.

If it’s dark you want, just preserve the captivity-making machine of SeaWorld, of Marineland, of Miami Seaquarium, of Loro Parque, of the Georgia Aquarium, of Shedd, of SeaWorld Kamogawa, of the Dubai Aquarium, of Atlantis: The Palm, of the Utrish dolphinaria, of the Beijing Aquarium, of the Nagoya Aquarium or the more than fifty aquariums in the nation of Japan (more than any nation on Earth).  If dark you want, don’t stop the new projects that are continually wanting to emulate SeaWorld’s model.

If, on the other hand, one wants to step into an ethic that preserves and respects life, be part of closing all dolphin and whale shows and ending the capturing and breeding-for-captivity.  Learn about the wild ones on their terms, without the noise, without the shows, without the artificial splashing of stuffed-toy-purchasing children and their parents.

So, at the risk of closing with a “pretty but uninspired long-lens shot[] of whales frolicking peacefully . . . ,” it is an image like this that is the inspiration of those who so love Blackfish and the Blackfish Effect.  This is our goal for all of them.

Why do people like Blackfish?  Because they resonate with truth. And because they very much like redemption. Both for us and for the dolphins.

Support this for all of them by signing the pledge to never go to a dolphin show.

Don’t invest in the captivity machine. Take the pledge to never go to a dolphin show.

What you can doRespect and celebrate life.  Take the pledge to never go to a dolphin show.  Join the #Blackfish Brigade on Facebook and Twitter and take part in coordinated action to get the attention of the entertainment (e.g., concerts at SeaWorld properties) and service industries (e.g., Southwest Airlines) that we want to end the dolphin shows.  And never stop until the shows stop.

Former SeaWorld copywriter’s note in light of Open Letter

As we read SeaWorld’s Open Letter, which it wrote in response to the truth-telling documentary Blackfish and published in several U.S. newspapers, we could spot the spins and turns it wove for an unsuspecting potential shareholder and visitor base.

There have been several responses written to clarify the spins and turns, including:

Something floated across my radar screen today, and when I re-read it, it literally took my breath away.  It was a statement of an advertising agency copywriter for SeaWorld, who described SeaWorld as “one of my favorite accounts . . .”  She submitted her statement to the Orca Network, which published it a bit more than a month ago.  Her statements are truly chilling in light of SeaWorld’s advertisement, Open Letter, Op Ed, whatever it is (which isn’t clear and may be characterized differently in the different publications):

A devout animal-lover, I thought (as did most of the creative team) I was participating in the preservation of Orcas seemingly delighting in this magical environment of hands-on trainers soaring through the choreographed acts with them. Oh how very wrong I was. And oh how deeply ashamed I am today for being a part of this vile travesty. I never knew or saw SeaWorld in the truest sense. I bought the lie…

So, as I read SeaWorld’s Open Letter, I think of this copywriter, and her anguish at having been part of disseminating the SeaWorld view of these magnificent beings, the orcas and other dolphins, the beluga whales – all the wide-ranging marine mammals – and I find myself wondering whether, and even when, the copywriter who worked on the current piece will have a similar epiphany.

What you can do:

Write letters to the editor: In order to ensure that the newspapers who published the SeaWorld piece are presenting both sides of the issue, the Blackfish Brigade has initiated a CALL TO ACTION regarding writing a letter to the editor of those newspapers (but don’t forget your local paper), to request that they publish one of the above-linked responses to SeaWorld, and state your view that a business model that is built upon the captivity of these magnificent creatures is now outdated, and that SeaWorld must adapt to our new awareness and begin working to develop a new one that is not based on animals-as-entertainment or captivity.

Participate in Empty the Tanks: The plans for the second annual Empty the Tanks events to be held on May 24, 2014, have already begun.  Check to see if your city has an event or events scheduled and begin the rallying cry to Empty the Tanks!

Share the word that Blackfish, being watched by more and more people every day and getting Oscar buzz, is available on NetFlix, Amazon and iTunes.

I’m following Blackfish Brigade for coordinated actions to make sure that SeaWorld and all aquariums that hold marine mammals captive are @blackfished!

There is no eduation within the mind of man that can justify the enslavement of dolphins.  Certainly no miseducation can.

There is no education within the mind of man that can justify the enslavement of dolphins. Certainly no miseducation can.

Atlanta’s ‘Blackfish’ audience recognizes the “pink dolphin in the room”

It was clear that Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary, Blackfish, struck a chord with the Atlanta audience when the manager of the Midtown Art Cinema had to use a gentle nudge more than once to stop the questions in last night’s special appearance by Emory Senior Lecturer Dr. Lori Marino, to allow the 9:30 showing to begin even close to “on-time.”

Members of the packed house at the Midtown Art Cinema last night were visibly moved by the journey that they had just witnessed, a journey of not only the orcas who were captured by an industry intent on using them for their commercial value, but also of the trainers who were used in much the same way.

Blackfish takes the viewer on a journey, both  human and orca

Blackfish takes the viewer on a journey, both human and orca

Whether they came to “training” as a calling or on a college-age whim, what was striking was that the trainers’ journeys were not unlike Tilikum’s own.  Trained and rewarded for appropriate behaviors and shunned for missing a “bridge” is a method employed not just on the non-human charges.  While this method is not restricted to the aquarium industry, what is restricted to that industry is the maintaining in captivity of marine mammals who do not thrive in those conditions and using “trainers” to keep that captivity machine running.

Blackfish joins Death at Seaworld by award-winning author David Kirby, the Cove and A Fall from Freedom as important repositories of information about how our society treats marine mammals

Blackfish joins Death at Seaworld by award-winning author David Kirby, The Cove and A Fall from Freedom as important statements about how our society treats marine mammals

What is also clear in the film is the nearly-inevitable stress-response that results and how that stress-response is an individuated process, both for human and non-human.  For a thinking being who in a natural setting makes both individual and group choices, merely having this choice removed may induce a stress-response.  The continual exposure to a lack of control will, once it reaches a point of saturation, express.  Learning, as we do in the film, that the brains of orcas have an extremely developed brain structure related to communication and emotion, this lack of control and the inability of echolocators to fully “express” themselves in concrete sound-bouncing chambers, it is little wonder that orca-human interactions are bound to “go wrong.”

The humans involved, too, react to this inherent, systematic and institutional ignoring of marine mammal requisites for a full life.  John Jett’s statement in the film that he remained a trainer “for” Tilikum, and his question, “who would take care of Tilikum,” revealed a growing awareness that things were not right for Tilly.  Carol Ray shares her first inklings that the welfare of the orcas was less important than their survival and distribution among parks.

While Tilikum has nowhere to go to address the “flight” in “fight or flight stress-response,” it is heartening that certain trainers and others around the world recognize the horrors of marine mammal captivity and are taking on the fight for their freedom, in their own way, on their own journey.

What was also clear to the moviegoers was the “pink dolphin in the room,” and one brave young woman gave voice to it, when she asked whether what she had seen in the movie applied to dolphins and whales, as at the local Georgia Aquarium, which holds 11 dolphins and four beluga whales and is seeking more.  Marino’s answer, born of her own research on dolphins, was unqualified in its response: dolphins and whales are not suited to captivity.

For more information about Tilikum and the facts revealed during the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement action at SeaWorld, I highly recommend the very readable Death at SeaWorld, now in its third printing in just over a year.

What you can do:

Eight deaths, three survivors: the survival odds are not good: EMPTY THE TANKS!

Verdict: brain damage due to overdose of antibiotics is the cause of the deaths of two dolphins, Shadow and Chelmers, housed at Connyland.  Administered by Connyland veterinarian, the Examiner reports that charges against the veterinarian for negligence and cruelty are expected to be filed.

Dolphins do not have a good survival rate at Connyland. Photo Credit: Ivan Schnyder

Dolphins do not have a good survival rate at Connyland. Photo Credit: Ivan Schnyder

While the charges against the veterinarian may be appropriate, one cannot help but note that Shadow and Chelmers bring the death toll at Connyland to eight deaths in three years and to query whether any charges will also include the amusement park that is responsible for the well-being and lives of the dolphins under its control.  How many deaths are considered “acceptable” in the aquarium industry?  How many deaths would be acceptable in anyone’s household?  If one lost eight dogs in three years due to illness and unrelated to natural aging, that is, eight out of eleven, I suspect that none of us would hesitate to wonder whether there was something in the environment and/or the care that was inappropriate and unacceptable.

So let’s look at the industry over the last six years and at some of the dolphins and whales who have been under its control (as documented by Ceta-base):

Aquarium                              Species                        Deceased in Last Six Years            
Connyland                            Bottlenose                   Shadow
.                                                                                     Chelmers
.                                                                                     Barchus (Bacchus)
.                                                                                     Magic II
.                                                                                     Chicky’s Calf (unnamed)
.                                                                                     Silver
.                                                                                     Secret

Georgia Aquarium             Beluga                          Natasha
.                                                                                    Gasper
.                                                                                    Maris’ Calf
.                                                                                    Nico (died 29 days after
.                                                                                       transport to SeaWorld)

SeaWorld (all)                    Beluga                          Muk Tuk                                      .
.                                                                                    Spooky
.                                                                                    Ruby’s Calf
.                                                                                    Sikku
.                                                                                    Martina
.                                                                                    Whisper’s Calf (twin)
.                                                                                    Whisper’s Calf (twin)
.                                                                                    Ruby’s Calf

Seaworld Orlando.          Bottlenose                     Starkey
.                                                                                   Bunny
.                                                                                   Sabrina
.                                                                                   Hekili
.                                                                                   Peanut
.                                                                                   Sundance
.                                                                                   Kato
.                                                                                   Bunny’s Calf
.                                                                                   Starkey’s Calf
.                                                                                   Calla’s Calf
.                                                                                   Rhett
.                                                                                   Sabrina’s Calf

Miami Seaquarium         Bottlenose                     April
.                                                                                   Cathi
.                                                                                   Nosey
.                                                                                   Hollywood
.                                                                                   Jupiter
.                                                                                   2009 Calf
.                                                                                   2009 Calf
.                                                                                   Hollywood’s Calf

This six-year snapshot of examples is but the tip of a very large iceberg of captive dolphin and whale death in an industry that will merely replace the dead with more income-generators.  But these income-generators, these dolphins and whales, do not deserve to be treated as livestock for human amusement.  Rather, they deserve to live a life for which their species was designed, and they deserve to live it in the ocean, with natural seawater, and tides, and sunshine and stars, and live fish that they hunt with their families, rather than live in small concrete tanks, where they are given medications, like the antibiotics given to Shadow and Chelmers, on a continual basis.

What can you do:  Learn how marine mammals are not suited to captivity, and on July 27 stand with thousands around the globe who are committed to find a life for all the current captive whales and dolphins that does not involve depriving them of the life they were born to live.

Join us as we say to the worldwide aquarium industry, EMPTY THE TANKS! to give dolphins and whales the kind of space, natural sea water, and ability to catch their own prey that defines who they are.  While there is no quick-fix to the problems created by the aquarium industry, we can begin the course toward protecting dolphins and whales from commercial and non-profit enterprises that would exploit them to satisfy the human attributes of curiosity and desire for amusement.

You can also sign a pledge that you will not attend a dolphin show, and thereby send a message to an outdated industry that it must use its considerable resources to find a better life for captive dolphins and whales, including releasing all those who are rehabilitated for a free life.

Thank you to Ceta-base for maintaining a database of the world’s captive cetaceans.

Empty the Tanks - Worldwide on July 27

Empty the Tanks – Worldwide on July 27. To find or create an event go to https://www.facebook.com/events/633576009989898


New York Times: The inhumanity toward dolphins goes further than a spike

Very glad to see a report from the New York Times on this atrocious hunt, which is inhumane in every aspect.  The tactic of using fear and panic to drive these dolphins for miles and miles, all the while fighting the attempts to drive, results in a stress level that is known to kill dolphins even if they somehow manage to escape the spike on which the study focused.  The cacophony of noise of the banger poles which is supplemented by the new noise in The Cove of slap paddles to create nowhere for the dolphins to go, and everywhere a wall of noise, for dolphins who have always had the free expanse of the ocean – well, please try to imagine that.  The resulting terror, the panic, the parents trying to stay with children through this unEarthly experience of no escape. The driving over the dolphins with propellers once the dolphins have been corralled into ever-tightening netted circles.  The individual selection and forceful removal of the pretty young from their parents and family, while their parents try to come between their young and the several loud divers in wetsuits.

The spike is what is left for the parents and older siblings and other pod members after the pretty children have been ripped away for the aquarium industry.

Dolphin in The Taiji Cove. There is no end to the photo that is acceptable.  Photo Credit by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians.

Dolphins in The Taiji Cove. There is no end to the actions captured in this photo that is acceptable. Photo Credit by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians.

It is significant, though, that in the past, these fishermen from the Isana Fishermen’s Union have claimed that, even if all these methods used in the drive were inhumane, at least the killing was.  Activists who have watched and heard the killings every day that they have occurred have known that the dolphins often drowned on the “ride” back from the Taiji Killing Cove to the town’s slaughterhouse because the dolphins were often merely paralyzed rather than killed by the driving of the spike.  On the other hand, the young dolphins who had been selected for captivity have been observed to die on the ride back from this Cove, only because of the terror and panic of being removed from their parents and family.  But it is nice to see scientists, even if at least one of them benefits from having dolphins held in captivity, finally speaking out in a peer-reviewed study about the science that laypeople have long-known as a result of observation of day after day of the six-month-long hunt.

If this means that this scientist is, at last, going to distance herself from captivity and her research on captive dolphins, so much the better.  It is captivity that “drives” the Drive Hunt.  Whether at the National  Aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium or SeaWorld.  Other countries emulate the hugely successful aquarium and marine park programs of the United States, and even though the United States aquariums have not attempted to acquire marine mammals for their shows from the wild (with the exception of the Georgia Aquarium who in 2012 submitted an application currently under review by NOAA for the import of 18 beluga whales specifically captured for the aquarium industry) since 1993, other countries make no attempt to constrain their “source” of dolphins.

Dolphins in aquariums, with few exceptions, do not live as long as those in the wild, and do so only by a regular regimen of antibiotics, antacids and even psychologically-enhancing drugs.  The stress of captivity, the unnatural food and water of captivity, the small tanks (compared to the ocean, mind you), the being ripped from family units that dolphins maintain for life in the wild, and more, spell a life of misery for captive dolphins.  A life that anyone who studies dolphins should know is also inhumane.

While I am grateful to the National Aquarium’s having ended the dolphin “shows” in 2012, we await the next ethical step to end their captive dolphin program, and to be part of the new age of rehabilitating all the captive dolphins for release into as much of the wild as any individual dolphin can thrive.  It is time for all aquariums to recognize that our current knowledge about dolphins  requires a different teaching moment for their patrons, one that would go something like this:

It is with bittersweet – but far sweeter than bitter – emotion that we announce that in order to ethically continue our position as “educators” of the public with regard to marine life, we end our captive marine mammal program.  We do this because we must.  We must because we know, by virtue of the past years of our involvement with dolphins and whales, that they do not belong in captivity.  It is with pride that we announce our new endeavor to rehabilitate the ones we have, for so long, kept in concrete tanks so that they may have a life worth living with sea water, fresh air, tides, and the ability to once again be apex predators, something that these sentient creatures deserve merely by drawing breath.

We activists work for that day and see it in our collective minds’ eye, every day.

End captivity, including keeping them as lab rats, and the hunt, and all its inhumane methods, will likewise end.

But as long as the hunt exists, continue to oppose it.  Expose the aquariums and those who pay money to go to aquariums as those who keep this killing machine running.  Register now to stand, on September 1, with others in your city or town or village or hamlet, and be part of a worldwide demonstration to end the Taiji Drive Hunt.

Japan Dolphins Day 2013 Coming Soon but you can register now

Japan Dolphins Day 2013 Coming Soon but you can register now

SeaWorld spearheads this meeting of the “I need a dolphin or whale” club

First go round, it was the Georgia Aquarium (on behalf of not only itself but also SeaWorld, the Shedd Aquarium and Mystic Aquarium) that said that it needed to import beluga whales from outside the United States.  Now SeaWorld is spearheading the effort, having set its sights on obtaining dolphins, more specifically, on an unnamed female Pacific Whitesided Dolphin, now being held captive at an aquarium in Japan.  The proposal is to tear her from her captive surroundings, from the dolphins that she has come to know, and to “ship” her as so much cargo halfway around the world to be put into another tank with strangers.

When is the welfare of the dolphin ever considered?  But I digress.

Pacific Whitesided dolphins where and with whom they belong: in the Pacific Ocean with their family

Pacific Whitesided dolphins where and with whom they belong: in the Pacific Ocean with their family. Photo Credit: Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

And we, the public, have an opportunity to give our input, to submit our comments, objections and questions on the permit application.  Comments must be submitted by March 6 to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the SeaWorld San Antonio application to import a female Japanese Pacific Whitesided dolphin.

At least based upon the readily-accessible information, there appear to be many unknowns. Without more information, it appears that this import permit application is either

  • not giving the public a meaningful opportunity to review and provide input; or
  • >is, itself, incomplete.

So, first, request all the additional information that NOAA is relying upon in its evaluation of the permit application.  Then raise meaningful questions in your comments, such as:

  • Who is the specific dolphin that SeaWorld intends to import? While there may be others who believe that they can piece it together to make a reasoned guess as to her identity, that burden in not on the public.  SeaWorld and NOAA share that one, with the ultimate burden falling on SeaWorld for the content of its application and the conclusions drawn from evaluating that application on NOAA.
  • Where is the birth record and the names of those to interview to verify that she (assuming they already have an individual in mind) is, in fact, captive-bred, as asserted in the application, and a record of the interviews conducted and by whom?
  • Failing the availability of a record that includes those interviews, on what basis will NOAA evaluate whether and agree that the unnamed female dolphin was captive-bred.  NOAA  must, via this record, eliminate the real potential (given the holding aquarium’s current ownership of wild-caught dolphins) for a wild-caught dolphin to be unlawfully imported into the United States without making all the necessary threshold determinations.
  • Failing a substantiation that the dolphin is not wild-caught, if it may then be presumed to be wild-caught (or they would surely have the records and interviews in the record), demonstrate that the dolphin was not caught in a hunt that has been recognized as inhumane, opposed by even by the International Marine Animal Trainers Association.

This should get you started.  In your comments, request a public hearing, or there won’t be one.

Shine as much sunlight on this as possible.

Via Email: NMFS.Pr1Comments@noaa.gov
Via Fax: (301) 713-0376

TO REQUEST ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: CONTACT: Jennifer Skidmore or Kristy Beard: (301)427-8401.

Captive Pacific Whitesided dolphin

Captive Pacific Whitesided dolphin

Ski Dubai “Penguin Training Program” video: the language of the captive trade

The International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA) recently posted on its Facebook page a new video by Ski Dubai about “the most innovative Penguin Training Program in the world.”

I notice that the language in the video is, not surprisingly, the same used to describe the captivity of dolphins and whales in aquariums, marine parks and other captive “encounter” programs.  This language is something spoken by every aquarium, any where.  This language has been intentionally designed.  Its purpose: to camouflage the truth that humans have ripped these creatures from their natural habitat and do not do well in captivity.

The animal captivity industry wants you to think that this can be recreated, even in Dubai.

The animal captivity industry wants you to think that this can be recreated, even in Dubai.

But what the aquarium industry and their minion, IMATA, whose purpose is the perpetuation of the aquarium industry, have underestimated is the ability of humans to hear the truth in between the words.  As you watch the video, listen for certain words.  Each time, insert its translation and hear the truth.

Keywords invented by the captive trade and their true meaning:

  • “Natural Behaviors” = tricks
  • “Education and Conservation for Awareness” = entertainment for monetary revenue that has no demonstrated substantial impact on conservation “behaviors” in humans
  • “Ambassadors” = captive beings who have not volunteered for “life” in captivity
  • “Animal Encounter” = exploitation of both people and animals for additional monetary revenue
  • “Best possible care program” = maximizing survival rate of already-trained animals
  • “Daily management behaviors” = so we can make them bend to what we need to do to them to keep them alive in captivity
  • “Stimulated” = things we do or give to the animals in an unnatural setting to avoid stress anxiety and boredom, which make animals ill in captivity
  • “Play day” = tricks for the public’s amusement (I can hear from here the clapping when the penguins bow)
  • “The animals are desensitized to having close interaction with people” = we have successfully exerted control over these animals

Please know that marine mammals are not suited to a life in captivity by virtue of their expansive habitat range (they migrate; they swim hundreds of miles in a short period of time; some dive to 1000′ in depth), their highly social and familial structure, and their high intelligence.  Keeping these sentient and social creatures in captivity is an inhumane venture fueled by an outdated view of the “animal kingdom”.

Enter a new day, based in today’s ethics, learn the language of the captivity industry, and do not go to zoos and aquariums that keep the animals who have no “business” being there.


A long Winter in Hudson Bay for a family of orcas

An aerial survey today from Inukjuak, Quebec, Canada, revealed no trace of the orca family that was trapped in one small breathing hole near the village of Inukjuak.  Hopes that the whales were “free” have been given a boost among many, but at the risk of showing what a skeptic I am, I believe that our vigil has, in truth, just begun.

What this “vigil” will look like, what we can do, or how we can do it, is less certain.  At a minimum, we must continue to, together, watch the weather and watch for the family, and be ready to move on a moment’s notice.  Watching for the family involves someone continuing to do reconnaissance flights in the area. Or on-ground surveys for any sign of the family.

The need for this vigil is revealed by knowledge about the orcas and about Hudson Bay.  If Hudson Bay is truly in ice lock-down with no path to open water available, as shown in this animated ice map, even accounting for scaling issues, there is no free path from the Inukjuak area or the grid flown today by the aerial survey to the open ocean, the orcas’ Winter habitat.

Ice Map, January 9, 2013. Photo from Environment Canada

Ice Map, January 9, 2013. Photo from Environment Canada

While more than several newspapers and news outlets picked up the story of the trapped whales, many reports leaned toward a hopeful outcome.  And while hope may spring eternal, the facts on the ground after the aerial survey, however, revealed only: no sight of the whales in a 40- by 50-mile grid where patches of open water were seen, some as large as football fields.

The overflight told us nothing about the distance to truly open water, nor could it tell us about the weather that will descend upon the Hudson Bay.  Will it see warmer than usual weather or will cold arrive, as it did this week, and as is more characteristic of the Hudson Bay area?

What we also know, with or without an overflight, there is no path of ice-free water for the whales to swim through between this area and the open ocean, with sign posts that the whales can read “This Way to the Open Ocean.”  As David Kirby observed, the whales are usually not in this area at this time of year.  “The whales, obviously, stayed too long, and when a cold snap arrived, they found themselves trapped in an ice-bound hell.”  Without a road map. With no path through the Hudson Strait to the Atlantic Ocean, where they would normally be at this time of year.

As they did in the story underlying the movie, The Big Miracle, Kasco Marine was prepared to put boots and de-icers on the ground to keep the whales’ breathing hole open as a path was created to “open water.”  But nowhere in the interior of Hudson Bay is it considered “open water” for this family of orcas.  “Open water” is the Atlantic Ocean.  So to reach “open water”, it may be necessary to follow the whales from breathing hole to breathing hole until the Spring thaw.

For now, with the family not being spotted, there is nothing to do but watch.  Watch for the whales and for a change in ice conditions.  Should the family reappear, however, a restart of a Herculean effort like the one coordinated on Facebook by Fins and Fluke may be necessary.

Many thanks to the groups and individuals who worked to establish contacts from the United States to Australia to Canada and back again and to make #SaveQuebecWhales trend on Twitter.   While it may be a long Winter in Hudson Bay for this family of orcas, they will not endure this Winter alone.  There are people all around the world standing at the ready if and when they are again sighted.  Join us.

Within the mind of man, there is no education that can justify dolphin captivity

Many if not most of you have by now have seen the video clip on ITN, of the dolphin trainer from the Ukraine.  In this perhaps infamous video, the trainer proudly demonstrates his dolphin-training prowess, having trained this dolphin a “trick” that is typically related to a dolphin’s demise.  In this trick, the dolphin “strands” and crawls on his belly about 10 feet, on the hardscape of the pool deck.

A friend and writer, Elizabeth Batt,observed that there was little regulation in the Ukraine that would require that such dolphin shows have educational value, but immediately checked herself, and noted that the situation in the U.S. was hardly much different.

So that got me to thinking about the U.S. laws.

Let us imagine, just for the sake of discussion, that the language in the Marine Mammal Protection Act and its implementing regulations has significance.  Let’s assume that when the MMPA says that any permits that NOAA issues under Section 104 may only be issued to a person whom NOAA has determined offers an educational program, Congress got it right in letting the aquarium industry set the standard of “educational program.”

What is that standard?

I have a feeling that it’s a little ill-defined, and perhaps we end up in the company of  Justice Potter Stewart when he stated – in what is probably one of the most oft-quoted concurrences – that he may not know how to define pornography, “But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”  So, while I might be tempted to conclude this day’s observation with, “I know it when I see it,” and I’d bet that there are lots of aquariums that aren’t even coming close in these United States.

But let’s suspend that reality, as well, for a moment.  And imagine that all aquariums were setting and meeting a standard of education that we would all accept as valid.

Even if we suspend that reality for a moment, and imagined that to be the case, there is one truth that each of you knows, that each of you recognizes as truth.

There is no education within the mind of man that can justify the enslavement of dolphins.

Cove Blue for Jiyu

Photo Credit: James R. Evans / U.S. Pacific Fleet

Because nothing says “Happy Holidays” like preventing dolphins from living in the ocean

Atlanta, Atlanta, Atlanta.  And now Atlanta Now, a  local advertisement for tourism and spending money in any number of ways in Atlanta, jumps on the captivity-is-cool at the Georgia Aquarium bandwagon.  In their latest issue, they remind us that we can spend money encouraging captivity for dolphins.  Because more and more captivity is what the ticket price purchases when one visits an aquarium that wants to import 18 beluga whales hunted and caught in the seas around Russia for a life of photo ops with Santa and friends.

A photo op for Santa and the Georgia Aquarium; a life of captivity for the dolphins. Atlanta Now! Magazine

A photo op for Santa and the Georgia Aquarium; a life of captivity for the dolphins. Photo by Atlanta Now Magazine

Maybe the Santa doesn’t translate to your holiday tradition.  So much the better for you, or at least the 11 dolphins held captive at the Georgia Aquarium.  But regardless of your tradition and whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day (yay), Ashura, the Winter Solstice or another event – you might yet be attracted by the man in the red suit to think that he was involved with something that was friendly toward the dolphin shown in the photograph.

Let me just say, no, he is not.  Scuba Santa is participating in an enormous marketing ploy to convince you that captivity is a-okay for dolphins, when, in fact, it is not. As the Humane Society of the United States and the World Society for the Protection of Animals and the marine biologists who have nothing to gain by keeping them in captivity have demonstrated, dolphins and other marine mammals are not suited for a life in captivity.  Why?

  • Marine mammals often breed unsuccessfully in captivity.  Shaka, a wild-caught dolphin held at the Georgia Aquarium, has apparently given birth four times.  Two of her babies died shortly after birth.
  • Marine mammals do not live as long in captivity.
  • Marine mammals survive and thrive by using sound to see their family, to find their prey, to locate other objects, including tools and toys that they select.  Imagine how confusing a concrete sound-bouncing chamber must be to a creature who uses sound to live.
  • Marine mammals are wide-ranging creatures, swimming up to somewhere around 100 miles per day and hundreds of feet deep.  How can a 25 or worse 12-foot-deep concrete tank provide a “life” that a dolphin needs to be a dolphin?  You’re right; it can’t.

What is a more appropriate holiday tradition?  How about actually learning about dolphins and whales and how they arrive and fare in captivity by sharing the following books and films – especially if you have a budding young marine biologist living under your roof:

The Georgia Aquarium as the world’s largest aquarium, may feel that there is no better way to say, “Happy Holidays!” than a visit to a facility that keeps dolphins and whales out of their native oceans.  But you won’t agree, once you know.  In fact, I’m betting that there are lots of you who, knowing more about the plight of dolphins and whales in captivity, would never again frequent an aquarium who held these regal beings in captivity and away from a life to which they have a full and vested right, by being alive.

Share life and freedom this Holiday season.  Happy Holidays to you and to all of life.