MEDIA RELEASE: World Oceans Day: Animal Organizations Speak Out Against Mississippi Dolphin Prison
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Gulfport, Miss. (June 8, 2017) - 19 international animal protection organizations have joined forces for World Oceans Day today to plead for dolphins to be excluded from the new Mississippi Aquarium, slated to open in 2019. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Born Free Foundation, and Sonar are among the organizations that signed In Defense of Animals' letter on behalf of the dolphins to Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes and Gulfport Redevelopment Commission Chairperson, Carole Lynn Meadows. Over 175,000 people have now spoken out against the plans to keep captive dolphins at the Mississippi Aquarium.
“Animal organizations are uniting on World Oceans Day to urge Mayor Hewes to keep dolphins in the oceans where they belong,” said In Defense of Animals cetacean scientist, Dr. Toni Frohoff. “There is simply no justification for keeping these highly intelligent and sensitive animals captive. Animal entertainment is quickly going out of fashion, making any new investment into it a very bad idea.”
Major public opposition has been building against the planned dolphin exhibit at the Mississippi Aquarium in recent months. Over 15,000 In Defense of Animals supporters have written to Hewes and Meadows since the plans were revealed. A former dolphin trainer at Gulfport’s Marine Life Oceanarium has amassed almost 160,000 supporters for her petition calling on Mississippi Governor Bryant not to redirect $17 million of BP deepwater drilling disaster restoration funds to build the Aquarium.
Mississippi Aquarium’s choice of President is almost as controversial as the plan to display captive dolphins. David Kimmel was formerly CEO of the Georgia Aquarium, a facility that was shamed on In Defense of Animals’ 10 Worst Tanks list owing to its deplorable conditions and numerous beluga whale deaths. Under Kimmel’s tenure, Georgia Aquarium made an extremely controversial attempt to capture and import 18 wild beluga whales from Russia.
“So long as Mississippi Aquarium plans to exploit dolphins, opposition will continue to grow,” said Dr. Frohoff. “City planners should heed the alarm bells before it is too late. The Aquarium is burdened with a controversial President, questionable ability to find funding, competition with existing and new aquariums, and is relying on roughly $57 million of taxpayer dollars before it has even opened its doors. Keeping dolphins alive in captivity presents a significant financial burden, and in light of declining revenues at SeaWorld, it is simply not worth gambling away Gulfport money.”
While opposition to dolphin captivity grows in Mississippi, a sea-change is being felt across the country and around the world. SeaWorld ended orca breeding last year and announced that it is phasing out orca captivity in all three of its parks in Florida, Texas, and California. Last month, the Vancouver Aquarium was banned from keeping or breeding cetaceans, and now the Canadian Senate is considering a nationwide ban on cetacean captivity. France and India are among several countries that have put laws in place to protect dolphins and other cetaceans from being held captive in recent years.
For more information, please visit www.idausa.org/dolphins
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In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 supporters and a 30-year history of fighting for animals, people and the environment through education, campaigns and hands-on rescue facilities in India, Africa, and rural Mississippi.
IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS • 3010 KERNER BLVD. • SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 • 415-448-0048