JeffM wrote:Is there some sort of middle ground that can be reached on the subject of captive marine mammals like dolphins and orcas?
First off, orcas are dolphins ;)
In my opinion there is little grey area when it has been so comprehensively shown that captivity effects cetaceans so significantly. BUT I am not fundamentally against zoos or aquariums, I believe it needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis and on the animals they keep and for what reasons.
I disagree with captivity for the sake of entertainment, I find it appalling an in now way justifiable. It is not educational, it has no conservation benefit. It is making money at the animal's expense. Captive breeding and AI should be stopped and animals retired to more suitable environments that mimic their natural habitat more closely or released if there is the possibility of a successful release.
With stranded dolphin I am in two minds, I think if the animal is ill and will obviously not survive in the wild if released, it should probably be put down then and there, saving resources for actually releasable dolphins that have a chance to make a return to the ocean rather than building up a population of captive invalid dolphins that eat resources and money. But it's not always that simple. some animals may seem releasable when taken into rehab but may have other problems that are not intermediately obvious, say liver problems as it is the case in Moonshine at Mote. He recovered fine from the sunburn and all the obvious problems and when on medication he is healthy but this may not have been foreseeable when he was rescued. What are you going to do then? Put an otherwise healthy dolphin down? If this is the case maybe the animal should be kept, I certainly do not put rehab facilities keeping dolphins in the same category as SeaWorld although conditions in captivity need to improve all around, including in rehab facilities. What I think should not happen is that the animal gets passed on to the captive entertainment industry, if anything, it could be used to conduct scientific research to learn more about cognitive abilities of cetaceans. However handicapped unreleasable dolphins should under no circumstances be bred to build up a population of captives.
One other eventuality: breeding for conservation. I know, it's not being implemented anywhere and I am certainly not condoning taking animals from the wild to set up a breeding program but say hypothetically, if there was a population of captive vaquitas (which to my knowledge is not) that is reproducing successfully and the offspring was raised with the sole aim to be returned to the wild to restock the wild population and this had been implemented successfully, I don't think I would be opposed to that, however once populations levels had improved, I would still want to see it close down and release the remaining animals. But this is obviously only a hypothetical situation as non of the cetacean species in captivity is actually critically endangered, noone is actually running such a program and as mentioned before, starting something like that would be destructive to put it mildly.
Animal captivity is only ever justifiable if: the animal's well being is not affected by it, it benefits the species conservation as a whole and it is in the hands of people who know what they are doing, ie. the scientific community not people who are in it for the money. Also, whatever the reasons for captivity, the current state of cetacean captivity is appalling and needs a lot of improvement and work on enclosures and enrichment, even the ones that are not in it for the money (ie. rehab facilities).
So in, very, very few cases, yes middle ground can be reached. But SeaWorld is in now way shape or form part of it.
JeffM wrote: If he ever sees The Cove, I'm almost certain he's going to run away and join Sea Shepherd or Greenpeace. Hell, I was feeling like putting on my "Action Nerd" direct-action-activist hat after watching it too.
Oh, Sea Shepherd is the other extreme, let's not go there, lol, not a fan!
JeffM wrote:I don't know. I'm rambling, and honestly just want to be able for my son to visit the Georgia Aquarium without me having an insurmountable crisis of conscience. SeaWorld is probably out for me, and even though I promised him that we could go to the dolphin encounter when he turned 8, I'm probably going to break that promise. Who knows, maybe once he's older and gets exposed to the fact that these creatures shouldn't be exploited, he'll be madder at me for *taking* him when he was young than he would be now for *not* taking him. They never tell you that there are going to be unforseeable, complex issues when you sign up to be a dad.
In the light of recent events, SeaWorld may disillusion him all by itself
Could you take him dolphin watching instead or is that not feasible/too far? I know it's different and not the 'hands on experience' many people crave but you do often get to encounter dolphins at close hand. Some countries (though not the US) also have wild swim with the dolphin programs, which while having their own ecological concerns, are probably better and more s
Broadreach wrote:As an avid scuba diver (like many of you) I can tell you that seeing the underwater world in person brings a whole new perspective to the use of marine life in aquariums. As much as I would prefer the animals to be free, it is worth considering the effect that it has over the millions of people that visit aquariums each year
JeffM wrote:I'm trying to steer him more towards good aquariums, books & DVDs, and learning to snorkel, but even amazing places like the Georgia Aquarium are adding dolphin shows. Is there anything to be said for the fact that these kind of things have a huge impact on how kids view ocean creatures? There's a message of conservation and respect for the oceans that runs through places like SeaWorld and the Georgia Aquarium, even if that message is hypocritical in several ways.
As David said, very common argument, and yes, some aquariums are wonderful, aquariums like Monterey Bay that focus on conservation, research and education. Some animals are just not suitable to be kept in captivity. I don't know, I might be slightly less opposed if they did not put on the ridiculous shows they do which have little stimulating effect and if anything show a false image of these animals, dolphins do not spend their days tailwalking and beaching themselves and giving their trainers kisses, all of these popular tricks are unnnatural, tailwalking can even damage their spine. Most people coming out of the Shamu show, although there might be a few remarkable exceptions, get presented with an artificial Disney character like animal that if anything inspires them to want to become Shamu trainers, not biologists.
"There is about as much educational benefit to be gained in studying dolphins in captivity as there would be studying mankind by observing prisoners held in solitary confinement" - Jacques Cousteau
We're not unique, just at one end of the spectrum.