Tag Archives: Georgia Aquarium

Taiji: An unsustainable and inhumane dolphin hunt

Between September 26 and September 28, in Taiji, Japan, an entire family of pilot whales was eradicated from the face of the planet.

Pilot whales fighting for their lives and losing, in Taiji, Japan.  Photo by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians

Pilot whales fighting for their lives and losing, in Taiji, Japan. Photo by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians

UnsustainableThis kind of removal of entire components of a gene pool is unsustainable, and is addressed under the laws of certain countries, if not Japan’s.  Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. §1361- 1421 (MMPA), the term “population stock” or “stock” means “a group of marine mammals of the same species or smaller taxa in a common spatial arrangement, that interbreed when mature.”  Under the MMPA, stocks are protected.  The term “strategic stock” means “a marine mammal stock . . . for which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds the potential biological removal level.”  The Taiji hunters exceed this mortality level in nearly every single encounter they have with dolphins during hunt season, because they are the proximate and direct cause of the kill and capture of significant portions of, if not entire, stocks of dolphins, even if some of the cause is less visible.

While the US law, and its notion of “strategic stock,” does not impact how the Taiji hunters conduct the drive hunt, it does impact U.S. aquariums.  The concept of “strategic stock” clearly prevents the importation into the United States of any dolphin captured in Taiji because the capture techniques there violate the concept of “stock”, and no animal so caught may be imported into the United States.  So, it is convenient for a U.S. aquarium that the public is largely unaware that such importation into the United States would never be permitted (assuming the proper decision is rendered by the permitting agency) when it “denounces” such drive hunts.  One wonders how the U.S. aquarium industry would view such hunts if it had a prayer of obtaining a dolphin from one.

Inhumane. For purposes of humaneness, the way in which this family was eradicated fails by any measure:

  • Two of the younger ones were taken for a “life” of captivity in the aquarium/marine park/swim-with industry either in Japan or internationally.  The life of a wild dolphin when it is restricted to a concrete tank or even to an “encounter cove” is so far removed from a natural life – devoid of natural family units, natural hunting behaviors, natural food and water, natural movement in straight lines over many miles and to much more varied (greater) depth – that it would be recognized in any ethics-based evaluation as “inhumane”.
  • Fifteen were killed, and their flesh sold as food. Whether food for humans or for some other, the flesh is recognized to contain toxic levels of contaminants, chiefly mercury and PCBs. The knowing and volitional spread of such contamination within Japan or to citizens of other nations is a reckless endangerment to others, and it must end.
  • Approximately 10 were driven back out, after two days of being traumatized by noise, food and water deprivation, watching family members taken from them and others killed, as the “survivors” watched.  These 10 or more pilot whales, likely the smaller whose bodies wouldn’t fetch poundage sufficient to include in the “kill/capture” quota, are believed to have become trapped in the Taiji harbor nets, having been unseen since they neared the nets. These air-breathing mammals would have then drowned. So killed they were, and should be accounted for in the “kill/capture” quota.

We can hope that the “survivors” will be spotted today, but even if they survive the immediacy of drowning in the nets, their chances for survival, without the matriarch and the other mature members of the family, are significantly diminished. The young have lost their protectors, their mentors, all the members who hold the majority of necessary survival skills. So whether they survive the nets, they have been, at least decimated in the short term, and quite likely eradicated in any meaningful, longer view.

Include all in the kill/capture quotaAn immediate call can and must be made by a decision-maker to include all the casualties, all captures, whether killed or “released” in the quota.

Caroline Kennedy got it right. The U.S. State Department backed her up.  But it's been crickets since then.

Caroline Kennedy got it right. The U.S. State Department backed her up in its January 21, 2014 briefing.  But it’s been crickets since then.

After Ambassador Kennedy made this statement, she was supported by the U.S. State Department.  But there has been no word since the eight months since.

Excerpt from U.S. State Department briefing, January 21, 2014.

Excerpt from U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing, January 21, 2014.

What you can do to end the Taiji drive hunt:

Reach out to the U.S. State Department, requesting that it clarify what it promised on January 21, 2014: to find out at what levels the U.S. government is having discussions with the Japanese government; main phone number (202) 648-4000.

Fax the Japanese embassies and ask if the Prime Minister has been briefed on the faxes, phone calls, letters and emails that the Japanese embassies and consulates around the world are receiving.  Include what you know about the inhumaneness and unsustainability of the drive hunt.  A selection of Japanese Embassy fax numbers:

US: 202-328-2184
Canada: 613-241-4261
Australia: 2 6273 1848
Malaysia: 03-2145 0126
India: 00-91-11-2688-5587 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Philippines: 02 551-5780 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Singapore: 6733-1039 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Solomon Islands: 677 21006
Chile: 2 2232-1812 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Costa Rica: 2231-3140
Trinidad & Tobago: 622-0858
UK: 020 7491 9348
Ireland: 01 283 8726
Germany: 030/21094-222
Russia: 495 229-2555
Denmark: 33 11 33 77
Sri Lanka: 11-2698629 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Thailand: 02-207-8510
Bangladesh: 2-984-1591
Peru: 463-0302 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Venezuala: 0212 262 3484,

All other Embassy and Consular info: http://www.mofa.go.jp/about/emb_cons/mofaserv.html

Fax Service (allows two free faxes per day, with restrictions): https://www.gotfreefax.com/

An excellent summary of what you can do to help end the Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt, including other phone numbers, email addresses, in addition to other actions that you can take: http://www.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/what-you-can-do.html

Follow the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians on Facebook, Twitter and on their livestream for current and accurate information every day of the six-month Drive Hunt, scheduled to end on February 28.

Open Letter to the City of Jacksonville

The City of Jacksonville, Florida, is considering opening an aquarium. A group called Aquajax is actively promoting this project, with one of its stated goals to “[m]ake the city a desired vacation location for both local and foreign visitors.”

From Lolita, A Slave to Entertainment.

From Lolita, A Slave to Entertainment.

Please consider the following issues as evidence that in contrast to making Jacksonville such a “desired” location, the erection of an aquarium, at considerable financial cost, such a facility will doom Jacksonville to being out-of-step with the current and growing sensibilities of an increasingly ethical public.   Some of the problems of captivity for orcas were brought to the public’s attention by the book, Death at SeaWorld, by New York Times best-selling author David Kirby, and the award-winning film, Blackfish, but the problems of captivity extend beyond that one dolphin species.

SeaWorld, which showcases orcas but owns in its “collection” many other species.  These other species are doing little to redeem SeaWorld’s reputation, as the public, worldwide, becomes aware that exploitation of marine creatures, including but not limited to marine mammals, is an endeavor that we must begin to phase out, not encourage.  The public, which may recognize SeaWorld’s efforts in coordinated rescue efforts of stranded or injured marine animals, also recognizes that one good deed (rescue) does not offset a horrid one (captivity).  There is no balancing that will remove the blemish of captivity from SeaWorld.

Consider these other “current events:”

  • The National Aquarium is ending its dolphin captivity after it recognized that phasing out its dolphin shows, which it had done only about a year previously, was not “enough”.
  • The Vancouver Aquarium Board has voted to end captive breeding.
  • Southwest Airlines ended its 25-year cross-promotion with SeaWorld.
  • The Georgia Aquarium has been denied a permit to import 18 wild-caught Russian beluga whales.
  • Bills to end orca captivity are under consideration in both California and New York. These bills, with the support of over 1.2 million people, are a reflection of the recognition that marine mammals and other oceanic aquatic life should not be exploited for human entertainment.
  • A plan to release Lolita (Tokitae) from the Miami Seaquarium has been proposed by the Orca Network.
  • Facilities in the United States that hold marine mammals inspire the growth of such facilities worldwide, which, in turn, supports a horrific dolphin hunting industry in Taiji, Japan, and elsewhere, where thousands of dolphins, hundreds of entire families of dolphins, can be slaughtered each year, in order for a number of young, pretty dolphins to be forced to live a life forever in captive, money-making (whether for-profit or non-profit) facilities.
  • Other marine mammals, such as polar bears, seals and sea lions, have an equal right to live in their own natural habitat.  Zoos and aquariums that hold them are targeted for being unable to provide suitable habitat, and in any case, deny them their birthright.
  • Zoo Mendoza in Argentina is being called upon by nearly a million people to release Arturo, a polar bear living in desert-like conditions, to a better facility in Canada.
  • SeaWorld’s last remaining polar bear, Johnny, who lived an unnatural solitary life, finally succumbed to this life and died, even while being touted as being in good health.
  • Zoos are coming under more scrutiny as being incapable of providing the kind of life that actually teaches our children to respect wildlife.

It is becoming all too clear every day to more compassionate and ethics-centered humans that “education” at the cost of denying the birthright of animals who should have freedom is a cost that is inconsistent with a humane society.

To learn more about the reality of the captive marine mammal industry, please watch A Fall from Freedom, Blackfish, A Whale of a Business, Lolita: A Slave to Entertainment.

To learn more about the link between dolphin captivity and dolphin killing, please watch the Academy Award-winning film, The Cove, and follow the efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its campaign, Operation Infinite Patience, dedicated to ending the horrific dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan.  Here is one report from last year’s dolphin hunt, which is set to resume on September 1.

Do not invest your monies, or your ethics, in a dying industry.

Cove Blue for Jiyu

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

Nellie

Nellie

I hear your call to the water,
The roll and swish and wish of the mother
Not the decimated, chlorinated, death-indoctrinated stuff of this other
In a tank.

Made to suppress the life inside
Leaving the urge, the call, the jump for true joy behind
In some memory of a birthright
From a tank.

A thousand cuts upon your soul
A thousand children cheering the knife
That took away your life
In a tank.

What language you speak
We need not learn.
Merely another tool of the master
Of a tank.

Leave your boats on the shore
Leave us to the language of the sea
A million questions we can ask in the wild
Only a few
In a tank.

Can you see me at all
Can you hear my cry
Can you save my children
From a tank?

Nellie. February 27, 1953 - May 1, 2014

Nellie. February 27, 1953 – May 1, 2014

For Jiyu, Faith, Hope and all the captives of the aquarium industry

Humans have created an unnatural world in which they, or some of them, think they can tell others who they are. It just isn’t true that humans have that power or that right: others aren’t food, aren’t clothing, aren’t entertainment, aren’t research projects. They are who they are. They are their birthright, not some small fraction of it that we say we have the power to allow them.

This is why Jiyu is so important to me. Jiyu was an individual. Jiyu was a failure in the human machine. Jiyu didn’t do what we told her to do. And Jiyu died because of the arrogance of man, that he thought he could control her.

I think of her and honor her life every day, as do others who worked to try to save her and continue to work to save the rest. Those on the ground working to save Jiyu were Heather Hill, Rosie Kunneke, Martyn Stewart and others whose names I do not know.

Heather Hill, whose image of Jiyu inspires me every day, has made this beautiful reminder of that very principle: The All-One – many call that God – tells them who they are, not we newcomers to this vast and wondrous Universe. Thank you, Heather, for this perfect tribute to those who would not go gentle into that dark, not good, night of captivity.

For Jiyu. Forever.

SeaWorld is coming for your children

SeaWorld is coming for your children.

SeaWorld's Fairy Kingdom

SeaWorld uses cute pictures to create a happy sea wonderland. Who could resist? Hmm. How about YOU!

It will use pop music and pretty, clapping, spandex-clad youths riding and standing on captive wild creatures to create a living fairy tale that only a few of your children will understand is actually a lie.

Don’t let your children become a trussed up Hansel & Gretel to a dressed up, but very hungry, witch.

And lest one imagine that it is any better at other aquariums with captive marine mammals, stop it.  You’re about to enter the fairy tale again. Which is exactly what they want.  The Georgia Aquarium expressly entices you with the promise of magic:

It’s Broadway theater. With dolphin stars! Original music! Amazing choreography! And soaring action!

Be part of something magical.

Only at the world’s largest, most magical aquarium. Georgia Aquarium, where imaginations go to play.

I might have added, “And belugas go to die” if I didn’t want to extract you from that “most magical” wonderland of dolphin domination and alternating cycles of sensory deprivation/sensory overload. Take a moment to think about that. Just a moment.  You can handle it.

Dolphins in barren concrete tanks, where they have ceased using much of their echolocation because it bounces around the concrete in a confusing manner that does not occur in nature.  Alternate that with the aquariums’ cueing their horrific music. Every day. A never-ending cycle of silence-loud-silence-loud-silence-loud. “Three shows daily!” For the rest of the dolphins’ restricted and unimaginably empty lives.

At the risk of losing you to the “most magical” kingdom, here is the Georgia Aquarium’s ad to lure us in with our children, not to mention our secret and just-as-innocent inner child.  Remember, it is not true. It is a constructed, “most magical” facade of domination and deprivation.  Deep breath – now go on in.

Ugh. I suspect that you can see that it is hype, very well-made hype.  But please, see behind that hype to the horrid existence for captive dolphins and whales and know that you’ve been had for your entire life if you thought that dolphin shows were okay. Had. Conned. By hype. To believe that you were doing something good for dolphins if you went to their show. Guess again.  You weren’t. You were had.  We were all had.

Georgia Aquarium Dolphin Tales

There are so many things wrong with this picture. How many can you find?

But don’t let them have your children.  Take a pledge that you will not go to the dolphin show.

And if you see this post in time, watch Blackfish on CNN this Sunday, February 9, at 9pm and 11pm ET.

A sea of cars that say “Watch #Blackfish”

Cars windows have been pronouncing gleeful occasions, such as marriage, since there were car windows.  Whether with tempera paints, shoe polish, or (plant-based) soap, there is a sea of “announcement” space as close as your drive-way, carport or garage.

What is there to announce?  In a word, blackfish.  If you have missed the news stories on CNN, HLN, CBS, ABC, etc., surrounding Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s, Oscar-buzz film Blackfish, and the controversy of SeaWorld’s maintaining a “collection” of highly intelligent orcas in morbidly small tanks, you are likely to remain unable to miss it for long.  In a nutshell, activists have been saying for many years that orcas, dolphins and whales are not suited to captivity. But along came a documentary to explore why an orca would kill one of his trainers, would “bite the hand that feeds” him, and the rest is history.

Again, if you’ve missed the story, just google “Blackfish” or, if you are social media savvy, search hashtag #Blackfish on Twitter. Especially via Twitter, you will see the worldwide conversation about the impact that watching the film and reading David Kirby’s book Death at SeaWorld is having on a world that had no idea.  You’ll find that a six-year-old boy who snuck in while his parents were watching Blackfish inspired a birthday present of demonstrations at three SeaWorld locations.
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But what about those who have missed it, who aren’t into current events or social media?
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Imagine a sea of cars emblazoned with the simple phrase “Watch Blackfish” and maybe add “on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes.”  Imagine the parking lots and interstate highways and traffic stops across these United States peppered with cars that encourage folks to join the Blackfish movement, to learn about the “Blackfish Effect,” and to take part in encouraging the world’s most-emulated marine park, SeaWorld, to see the error of its ways and change its model from exploitation to real conservation.
Watch Blackfish on Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes

Watch Blackfish on Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes

As one who isn’t particularly fond of bumper stickers, I really like the idea of car paint: it’s simple, washable and easily changeable.

Watch Blackfish

I’m hoping to wash my car before someone else makes the suggestion

Speaking of washable, off I go to the car wash and the crafts store.  While my first attempt got honks and thumbs-ups as I drove the 550 miles on I-75 from Florida, I think I’ll spiff up old paint for her new job as part of an ocean of cars with a mission.

Watch #Blackfish.  Listen for the truth.  Don’t ever go to a marine park or aquarium that uses these beings for whatever purpose is their flavor-of-the-month.  Join the Blackfish movement.
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And if you are so-moved, paint that car!!! ♥

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.

SeaWorld uses full-page advertisement: an insult to both orca and human

As SeaWorld recoils from the truth-telling Gabriela Cowperthwaite film, Blackfish, various interests have stepped forward in SeaWorld’s defense.  Its defense by the Florida Attractions Association is not surprising.  Nor is SeaWorld’s own self-defensive ad, a statement which it today published in eight U.S. newspapers.

Also not surprising is its message which is a repackaged refrain that most will recognize.  Its first point, that SeaWorld “does not” capture killer whales in the wild, is a true statement.  Since Blackfish never suggested that SeaWorld is actively capturing orcas (killer whales), it is misleading that this was their ad’s opener.  Significantly, however, is that SeaWorld’s adverstisement omits the fact – the truth – that SeaWorld is part of an initiative to capture other whales for display at its parks, being party to the Georgia Aquarium’s 2012 application to capture 18 wild beluga whales in Russia.

When, however, SeaWorld states that it does not separate killer whale young from their mothers, except, for instance, if the mother cannot care for the young, the lack of truth rankles and the words fall hard on an ear that understands even a little about this process.

Katina is a female orca at SeaWorld Orlando.  SeaWorld has removed five of Katina’s seven young from her.  Because young, wild female orcas learn from older females how to be mothers, Katina, snatched from the wild at about the age of two on October 26, 1978, was premeditatedly removed from her maternal models by the aquarium industry and was, as a result, actively set up by its capture process to fail as a mother.

Despite the lack of appropriate maternal mentoring, however, SeaWorld used Katina to become a breeding orca and to continue the unnatural mother-child relationship that it would then use to justify its own artificial mother-child separations.

So does “bad mothering” explain why SeaWorld would take five of Katina’s seven children away?

Katina, a "stellar" mother, held at SeaWorld Orlando

Katina, a “stellar” mother, held at SeaWorld Orlando

Actually, the record supports just the opposite inference.  SeaWorld found itself extremely and undeservedly fortunate in Katina’s displaying, instead of a poor mothering record, one that indicates that the separation of her children had nothing to do with her mothering skills.  In contrast with SeaWorld’s ad, trainers who worked with Katina, found that her mothering instinct was strong.  Carol Ray, a former SeaWorld trainer featured in Blackfish, who worked directly with Katina, noted that “Katina took to nursing with no trouble and was immediately receptive to the babies.”  She seemed able to care for both her older children and the newborns, but only so long as SeaWorld allowed it.

Despite these good skills, Katina has experienced every mother’s worst nightmare:  the involuntary removal and even death of her children. She has had five of her seven calves taken from her (one was subsequently returned):

  • Kalina, also known as “Baby Shamu,” was Katina’s first-born, and is considered the first successful orca captive birth.  She was taken from Katina when Kalina was four.  While she was returned later, Kalina died at the age of 25.
  • Katerina, taken from Katina at age two, died at SeaWorld of Texas at the age of ten.
  • Taku, Katina’s third, and taken at age 13, died soon after the separation in 2007 at SeaWorld of Texas.
  • Unna, Katina’s fourth, born in 1996, was taken at age 6, and now lives at SeaWorld of Texas.
  • Ikaika, Katina’s fifth, born in 2002, was taken from her for another breeding program at age four, and now lives at SeaWorld San Diego.
  • Nalani, born in 2006, lives at SeaWorld Orlando with Katina.
  • Makaio, Katina’s youngest, born in 2010, is only the second of Katina’s seven calves who has never been separated from his mother.

The notion that a “healthy social structure” is fostered by removing a child from its mother is something that would be stated only by the captivity industry.

Repeating it only makes the nose grow longer

Repeating it only makes the nose grow longer

SeaWorld seems to think that if something is repeated over and over, it begins to ring like the truth.  The only thing that is ringing in this household is the insult that it lobbed at not only the orcas, and the orcas’ mothering skills, but also at our ability to distinguish fact from fiction.

Don’t take the bait.  Don’t go to the dolphin show.  Share Blackfish far and wide.  Join the Blackfish Brigade on Facebook and on Twitter.  Tweet using the hashtag #Blackfish.  Read Death at SeaWorld for a more in-depth understanding.

Does the Georgia Aquarium understand “extinction”?

The Georgia Aquarium uses the term “extinction” in its recent petition to garner support for taking wild belugas out of the ocean and putting them into tanks.  Whether the Georgia Aquarium understands extinction is not clear.  But there are only two options:

  • A) It does; or
  • B) It does not
Will the Georgia Aquarium's use of the term "extinction" mislead the public?

Will the Georgia Aquarium’s use of the term “extinction” mislead the public?

In its petition, the Aquarium states, “Unfortunately, with fewer than 35 belugas in accredited aquariums in North America, this population of animals in human care is facing certain extinction.”

So, let’s walk through this statement in order to help us understand the message that the Georgia Aquarium is sending to the public:

Extinction: “In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms (taxon), normally a species.” (From Wikipedia).

Population of animals in human care (in accredited aquariums in North America):  While the notion of “population extinction” is a credible component of species extinction, it was never intended to describe an artificial, man-made assemblage of animals extracted from wild populations and inserted into a captive display program.  As described in 1993 by Paul Erlich and Gretchen Daily, population extinction is most commonly viewed geographically and in two aspects.  These two aspects are a demographic unit and a mendelian population.  As noted by Erlich and Daily, a demographic unit is “simply an interbreeding group sufficiently isolated from other interbreeding groups so that changes in size do not greatly influence the size of nearby groups, and vice-versa.”  The other group, the mendelian population, “is, in essence, a genetically defined entity that can evolve independently of other such units . . .”

So, does the Georgia Aquarium understand that neither of these definitions was intended to encompass an artificial assemblage of captive animals in a “collection”?  I don’t know the answer to that.  In either event, however, this use of the term is inappropriate, and the Georgia Aquarium should resist its further use in its judicial challenge to NOAA’s denial, on its webpage, in tours at the Aquarium, and in petitions directed at a public who tends to learn much of what it knows about marine mammals from aquariums.  I will add, though, that I find it disconcerting to think that it actually might not understand extinction since it claims “conservation” and “education” as its goals.  Oops.

In the wide and wild world, there is but one beluga population that is, in fact, endangered, being listed on the United States’ List of Endangered Species as well as on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.  That population is the Cook’s Inlet beluga whale group, which is a demographic unit and possibly also mendelian, whose ongoing plight was caused largely by “over-harvesting”.  Efforts are underway to protect that population, despite recent threats.

While it bears noting that some captive programs utilize aggressive breeding to prevent species-wide extinction where the wild populations are in danger, we humans should not extract wild animals from healthy, wild populations in order to preserve the captive one.  And where we do, we do not invent a fiction that we are doing so to prevent “extinction”.

From MarinelandCanada.com

From MarinelandCanada.com

Short sidebar:  The Georgia Aquarium’s petition notes that there are fewer than 35 beluga whales held in North American accredited aquariums.  This must exclude the 45 beluga whales held at Marineland Canada.  I didn’t realize that Marineland was not accredited.  I think we should leave this issue to the two aquariums to address.  Whether it should have been is another matter.

But back to the point, whether or not the Georgia Aquarium includes the Marineland whales, it would be inappropriate to consider the concept of “extinction” anywhere in this debate over whether the Georgia Aquarium should be allowed to invigorate the international capturing of wild marine mammals for the aquarium industry.

Don’t take the bait.  And I promise I won’t use the term “extinct” in my wish that all facilities that hold marine mammals go the way of the dinosaur.

Beluga Whales in Chukchi Sea, Alaska. Photo credit Laura Morse, NOAA

Beluga Whales in Chukchi Sea, Alaska. Photo credit Laura Morse, NOAA

 

Pride at the Georgia Aquarium: an assault on humanity’s sense of ethics

As the Pride Festival gets into full swing this weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, its weekend events were kicked off yesterday at the Georgia Aquarium, described by the Atlanta Pride Committee on its website:

Th[e Georgia Aquarium] is always breathtaking and the décor is always an assault on your senses.

While Pride notes the decor and the assault on one’s senses, the contradiction between celebrating one’s freedom-to-be at a facility whose purpose involves denying those same freedoms to dolphins and whales (and other animals) is so obvious as to be embarrassing.

Atlanta Pride Kickoff Party at the Georgia Aquarium, photo www.atlantapride.org

Atlanta Pride Kickoff Party at the Georgia Aquarium, photo www.atlantapride.org

As has been repeated here and to Pride on numerous occasions, marine mammals are not suited – by their nature – to captivity.  These highly social and intelligent beings swim tens and even up to nearly 100 miles in a single day, use sound to interact with their world (to find each other, identify prey and danger and other curiosities), and live with their family/community groups, generally for life (that is, their relationships are far more permanent and daily-present than our own).

In obvious and inescapable contrast, in captivity, all of these basic characteristics of being a dolphin or whale are denied: they are put in concrete and steel tanks where sound is a confusing and stressful series of reflected and transmitted close-range noises, mostly human-caused, so much that they stop using sound in anything like the way they would in the wild.  They stop truly communicating with their world and become individual and isolated beings, notwithstanding “sharing space” with other, similar beings.  Their “families” aren’t families, their communities not communities, any more than a random assemblage of people makes a family or a community.  Denied access to living fish (their source of fresh water in the wild) as a daily staple of their diet, they no longer obtain the fresh water that is as essential to their healthy lives, and fresh water must either be supplied by a garden hose down their “gullet” or in cubes of gelatin (another product that they do not eat in the wild).  In addition to noise and diet, the aquarium industry further destabilizes them by moving them around dependent upon the needs of the industry and often takes the young away from their mothers to populate another park.

The noise was noted in 2011 by Dan Matthews, PETA Vice-President, after his first attendance at a Pride opening party,

As a veteran clubber, I’m used to big loud parties, but the music at the aquarium was so earsplitting that even before we entered, I could only wonder how it sounded to the most notable of the facility’s 120,000 inmates–the beluga whales. These marine mammals are so sensitive to pounding noises that the aquarium shipped them away during construction of the dolphin exhibit. Yet the thumping techno remix of Katy Perry’s “Firework” was as audible outside as a jackhammer.

Thus began the outreach to Atlanta Pride, which continues to the present.  Despite years of such outreach by PETA and its spokespersons (like Jane Lynch (2012) and Project Runway’s Tim Gunn (2013)) and other individuals, the Atlanta Pride Committee continues to ignore the body of work made available to it regarding the perils of captivity to marine mammals.

Have a great time this weekend at the Pride events.  It is just increasingly disappointing that the Pride leadership does not listen to the consistent outreach about why “Pride” and the “Georgia Aquarium” do not share values.

As long as Pride, whose main purpose is

to promote unity, visibility and self-esteem among lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender and queer persons and to promote a positive image in the Atlanta area and throughout the Southeastern United States through community activities and services[,]

continues to ignore the rights of other beings to be who they are, to have the freedom that life gave them, unaltered by an agenda of an exterior entity, corporation or government, Atlanta Pride will fail its mission.

One cannot build Pride on an assault of humanity’s sense of ethics.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/briangratwicke/6182462658/in/photostream/

Beluga whales have their lives taken away as a curiosity or weekend amusement. Photo by Brian Gratwicke

What you can do:

Thank you to PETA for not ever giving up on thiThank you to PETA, Georgia Animal Rights and Protection, and Atlanta's local

Thank you to PETA, Georgia Animal Rights and Protection, and Atlanta’s local activist community for not ever giving up on the dolphins and whales at the Georgia Aquarium. Photo by Katie Arth.