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