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.
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 Cove, Academy Award-Winning film by Oceanic Preservation Society
- A Fall from Freedom, a film by Earth Views Productions
- Minds in the Water, by Dave Rastovich and Saltwater Collective
- Behind the Dolphin Smile, by Ric O’Barry (updated and re-released in 2012)
- Death at SeaWorld, fabulous book triggered by the death of marine animal trainer Dawn Brancheau, by journalist David Kirby
- Swimming with Orca, by Dr. Ingrid N. Visser
- When Dolphins Cry, by Hardy Jones Productions
- Sharkwater, film by Rob Stewart (it’s about sharks; expand your sphere of investigation)
- The Voice of the Dolphins, by Hardy Jones
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.