Captivity is “a failed experiment”

Written by on July 27, 2013 in Editor's Choice, Other News, Whales & Dolphins
Protestors at Empty the Tanks at Miami Seaquarium. Photo credit: Emily Tripp.

Protestors at Empty the Tanks at Miami Seaquarium. Photo credit: Emily Tripp.

Today was the first annual Empty the Tanks Worldwide event. I spent the afternoon at Miami Seaquarium where protestors lined up around the park entrance in the pouring rain to show their support for the anti-captivity movement.

While I was there, I spoke to Chris Lagergren who organizes monthly protests at Miami Seaquarium and helped coordinate today’s event.

Chris says that all of these people show up not just to protest for all captive cetaceans, but they are also “out here protesting Arthur Hertz, the owner of this aquarium.”

Miami Seaquarium declined to answer questions but issued a written statement that said, in part, that the event was “…a publicity stunt by anti-marine park and aquarium protestors designed to discredit marine mammal facilities. The campaign paints a distorted picture of what our park offers and ignores the value of the high quality educational programs and conservation efforts of accredited institutions and the quality of care they provide for marine mammals.” You can read the full statement, which was issued by a PR agency on the company’s behalf, here.

I also had the privilege of meeting Ric O’Barry, head of the Dolphin Project and star of the award-winning documentary The Cove.

Ric O'Barry and Emily Tripp at the Miami Seaquarium for Empty the Tanks.

Ric O’Barry and Emily Tripp at the Miami Seaquarium for Empty the Tanks.

O’Barry was once on the other side of the dolphin captivity fight. He worked for ten years in the captivity industry and was employed by the very same Miami Seaquarium where he was protesting today. He captured and trained dolphins, including all five dolphins that played TV star Flipper. But, he has spent the last 40 working against that industry and now comes to protest at the Seaquarium every chance he gets.

I asked him how effective he thinks these kinds of protests are and he said he knows it “obviously works on some people who go to drive in and change their minds” once they see the protest. “That’s always encouraging,” he continued. “It’s discouraging to see this many cars in the parking lot.” Especially on a rainy day…

Raising awareness seems to be the key here. I asked Ric if he thought people were still buying tickets because they don’t know about the problems with keeping marine mammals in captivity or because they don’t care and he said “I think they just don’t know.” But that will all change soon thanks to the movie Blackfish.

“I feel sure that if people see it, they’re going to think twice before they buy a ticket to SeaWorld or any place that has an orca…it’s that powerful,” he said.

When discussing how long it will be before marine mammals are no longer kept in captivity, Ric says he thinks it will end in the next couple of years.

“It’s a failed experiment and it should be abolished.”

Empty the Tanks at Miami Seaquarium. Photo credit: Emily Tripp.

Empty the Tanks at Miami Seaquarium. Photo credit: Emily Tripp.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. Hilda Cummings says:

    Arthur Hertz SHAME on you for letting the community think that you are helping the marine mammals while you are keeping them prisoners and profiting from them every day!
    We will continue to protest and let him know we will not back down until Lolita is released, her 43 years sentence needs to end TODAY!

  2. Hunter Kilpatrick says:

    Was there any information there regarding the Orca Network’s proposal to retire Tokitae to San Juan Island and attempt to reintroduce her to her family. This proposal is to work with the Seaquarium in her transport and care. The proposal is to have the Seaquarium as an active participant in the move and these protest, by not addressing it, may only hurt the success of the program to actually free Tokitae.

  3. Emily says:

    Hi, Hunter — Tokitae (eventually renamed Lolita) is the focus of monthly protests at Miami Seaquarium. Protestors are calling for her retirement which would involve relocating her to a sea pen in Washington. No one mentioned a proposal specifically from the Orca Network, but right now NOAA is reviewing a petition to list Tokitae/Lolita as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. If she gains endangered species status, she will have to be released and hopefully reintroduced to her family. Please feel free to email me more info on the Orca Network’s proposal if you would like!

  4. Rob says:

    Well done. This is the first time I’ve heard Ric O’Barry speak about the film Blackfish.

    Lolita’s story is one of the saddest in the history of orcas used for entertainment.

    Also, I did not know there were monthly demonstrations at the Seaquarium.

    Congratulations on your successful event. May there be many more—until they are no longer needed!

  5. Emily says:

    Hi Rob – Thanks for your comment. I was happy to hear Ric O’Barry mention Blackfish. Hopefully it will have the impact he predicts!