The Green Leaf

Empty the Tanks protest at Sea Life Park

May 27th, 2014
Eight-year-old protestors hold up signs Saturday (May 24) across from Sea Life Park for the international Empty the Tanks movement. Courtesy Empty the Tanks FB page.

Eight-year-old twins Tristan and Aidan Smith hold up signs Saturday (May 24) across from Sea Life Park for the international Empty the Tanks movement. Courtesy Empty the Tanks FB page.

Local protestors took part in an international Empty the Tanks event on Saturday, May 24, across the street from Sea Life Park to raise awareness over marine animals in captivity.

It was the second annual Empty the Tanks event, with this year's protest represented by organizations including the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, PETA, Ocean Defender Hawaii, Pangea Seed and Deep Ecology Dive Center.

EmptytheTanksThe movement is gaining momentum after the release of the documentary, "Blackfish," by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, which screened at Kahala Theatres last August and on CNN. It's amazing how this low-budget documentary has made an impact on people, prompting lawmakers in California to consider a bill banning Seaworld orca shows.

My first thought upon seeing the documentary, was, "Well, we don't have orcas in captivity in Hawaii." We have a multi-million-dollar tourism industry centered around observing Hawaiian humpback whales in the wild, with federal regulations in place to protect them. But we do have dolphins and pilot whales in captivity at Sea Life Park on Oahu. And dolphins at resorts for the popular DolphinQuest swim-with-dolphins programs that I've had friends and family rave about.

What makes that any different? I'm not so sure, really.

Before "Blackfish," another documentary (Academy Award winning) called "The Cove" came out in 2009, detailing the annual, bloody slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, where some are captured and sold to amusement parks. Former Flipper dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry is a convert, telling people not to support any of these programs. I think before "Blackfish," people tended to say, "Oh, it's those animal rights people" again. But now it's more mainstream. If anything, there's more awareness.

The thing is that people go to see dolphins and whales because they're curious about them, and from a distance, also, because they love animals. If these marine mammals can't go back into the wild and survive, though, where could they stay and how would that be funded? Philanthropical foundations?

Sea Shepherd crew member Deborah Bassett said in a press release: "I have been to the infamous killing cove in Taiji, Japan to oppose the brutal slaughter of dolphins that take place there annually. People need to make the connection between dolphin captivity and the slaughter, an issue that was highlighted in the Academy Award winning film 'The Cove.' The message we want to get across to both locals and tourists here in Hawaii is do not buy a ticket to these shows or support any establishments with captive whales or dolphins, including Sea Life Park. After all, nature has given us the great fortune of seeing these amazingly intelligent animals across our island chain; there is simply no justification for this type of enslavement here or anywhere on the planet in 2014."

Sea Life Park issued the following statement through their public relations firm:

"As a member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, we are dedicated to the highest standards of care for marine mammals in order to provide an enriching educational experience for our park guests. Our animals receive constant attention and affection, and the best food, shelter and veterinary care, including on-site professionals and world-renowned experts who are on retainer to the Park. None of our dolphins on display at Sea Life Park have been acquired through drive hunts. The majority of our dolphins were born in captivity through a responsible breeding program."

True, Sea Life Park, which has been around 50 years, does a lot of educational programs and has a green sea turtle breeding program which regularly releases baby turtles into the wild. I wrote about it once.  And once, a few years ago, I went to Sea Life Park as part of an Earth Day event after a beach cleanup.

But I think twice about it now.  What do you think about dolphins and whales in captivity?

7 Responses to “Empty the Tanks protest at Sea Life Park”

  1. Hapahaoleoboy:

    Imagine a person who had a border collie, a very active dog breed, and kept it in a studio apartment for its entire life. No walks outside. No runs. No dog parks. No hikes. Yeah, the dog gets fed and gets lots of attention in the apartment. But that's no life for a border collie. For a dolphin, the facilities of sea life park are the equivalent of a studio apartment for an active dog. It's not exactly torturous, but it's an extremely poor quality of life compared to what it should have in the wild.

  2. Brittany:

    I think there are many ways to educate the public about marine animals. But no matter what these parks offer their captive animals, can never begin to replace what they would have in the wild. These dolphin shows and swim with the dolphin programs, are strictly a profit making business. You can't say that dolphins and whales living in concrete tanks, swimming in constant circles, being fed dead fish and being made to preform various shows is at all in their best interest. This goes for the sharks circling their aquarium, the seals, sea lions, and whatever other animals are stuck outside of their natural habitats, unable to engage in their NATURAL behaviors (swimming up to several hundred miles per day, playing and socializing with their entire families). These animals are entertained, sure. HAPPY? Heck no. And to top it off, every time these dolphins have to perform their shows, they get a little glimpse of their home THE OCEAN... How messed up is that. It's like a stab in the heart.
    Please don't buy tickets to marine parks or swim with dolphin programs. There are many ways to get educated with wild animals!

  3. Pocho:

    ^^^ good analogy. They should also be protesting the Waikiki Aquarium, The Honolulu Zoo, all pet shops and for that matter any place that keeps animals in an enclosure.

    I bet they are vegetarians too

  4. Belinda Barnes:

    Is it really "living" when one is held captive? Dolphins in the wild can swim up to what 75-100 miles in a day? Sea lions can dive to depths greater than 500 feet. Their dives are usually about 3 to 5 minutes long, and they may dive continuously for up to 30 hours. Can Sea Life Park captive dolphin and sean lions do that? It is just incredibly sad to keep them in that park so close yet so far from freedom. It is beyond selfish, just sick to breed them in captivity and say oh it's okay because they were born here. Would it be okay to keep a child in a tiny room it's entire life just because it was born in there and never knew anything different? Absolutely not! The park should get out of the business of putting the animals on display, swimming with the tourist, and just help the injured to then release them back into the wild. Build an amusement park on the spot, have videos of animals in the wild on large screens, serve delicious whole foods, hold lectures on why you got out of the captive business, conservation, and there will be enough money to assist injured sea creatures to come...Then you really will be Sea "Life" Park!

  5. Kirsten Ramirez:

    Its ridiculous how people try to justify captivity. That shows how selfish many humans are. Marine life were created in the ocean for a reason that is where they belong. They were not created for us to watch them for entertainment purposes.This industry is not about the care and education of these beautiful souls its about one thing money! Money is the only concern here. If these parks really cared about all who are trapped whether by breeding programs or from being stolen from their families and their home they would never have taken them in the first place. They don't care about their well being if they did they would focus on rehabilitating and a release back into the ocean program only instead. Its important to understand how the slaughter/captivity process in Taiji is related to all of these parks whether these dolphins and whales are connected directly or not it sends the same message. Those who go to these parks are saying its okay for the slaughter and captivity process to happen. Captivity and the slaughter work together and its not okay. People need to look beyond the tank and understand the whole process on how marine life end up in these prisons. If people want to learn about these beautiful souls then educate yourself by watching documentaries and reading about them in books. Learn how they rely on their pod members which is their family. There are multiple companies here on Oahu that will take you out on their boats to watch dolphins in the wild. That is how you will learn about their true character.

  6. Lorri Crockettt:

    Sea Life Park is NOT a local company!

    It's owned by an international multi-billion dollar conglomerate, London based Arle Equity, and is managed by Palace Entertainment which is part of Spanish based Parques Reunides, all under Arle Equity.

    They are raking in a fortune on the backs - and lives - of our dolphins. According to 'Save Japan Dolphins', a dolphin has the potential to bring in nearly $20,000 per day in a swim-with-dolphins program. That is a huge chunk of change, considering that Sea Life Park has several programs going, often simultaneously.
    They are using our public land - land that belongs to the people of Hawaii and the U.S. Sea Life Park leases close to 50 acres from the adjacent Oceanic Institute, which in turn leases from the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The lease was renewed in October 2012 and their next option for renewal is in 2022.

    They are required to pay a maximum of 6 percent of their income, and only from some revenue sources, which means the people of Hawaii see little economic benefit. Under the terms of the lease, Sea Life Park is permitted to have 'marine life' but there is nothing guaranteeing them the right to have marine mammals!!!

    The causes of death at Sea Life Park are UNACCEPTABLE!! Dolphins there have died of drowning, jumping out of the tanks, trauma, heart attacks, pneumonia, parasites and more.
    Forced interaction with people can be extremely stressful for the dolphins and whales.

    Why are we not supporting our local businesses that are ethically and humanely operated with welfare of the animals as a priority, instead of businesses that are strictly all about greed? There are many wonderful tour groups that will take people out on the water and people can see and interact with these mammals in their natural environment for a fraction of the price that SLP charges. My husband and I have personally been out with "Wild Side Specialty Tours" on the west side of Oahu, and there are many more Island wide and the outer Islands as well. People are "properly" educated about the marine life and can even get in the water with their snorkels and fins and swim with the dolphins, turtles, etc. Here the dolphins decide if they want to interact with you, which is a much more positive experience for everyone involved; and we are now truly showing our respect to these wonderful creatures in their own habitat.

    Malama Pono e a hui ho!!

  7. Suelang:

    I am proud and honoured to say that the 2 handsome fellas in the photo attached to this article are my twin stepsons. They are have a very healthy respect of Mother Nature and understand the importance of living symbiotically with everything on this planet. They also have learned the sad truth that unfortunately, that isn't how the majority of people look at life. What a sad and disturbing time we live in when we have to face our children's questions about why the planet is in the sorry state that is is currently!!

    The boys are especially passionate about the ocean and it's beautiful inhabitants. For 8 years old they are extremely knowledgeable on dolphins, whales and sharks. They have so many books on the subject and every trip to the library, they walk out with at least one ocean or animal related book tucked under their arm. They have watched many nature documentaries that further increase their understanding and love of marine animals in their natural habitats and also the importance of the ocean to human survival. During these past few months we all watched the Cove, Blackfish and Sharkwater together as a family. Needless to say they were absolutely shocked, upset and angry about the way some folk see fit to treat these magnificent creatures. And for what?? Either some form of human consumption, or for our entertainment. This past century has seen the worlds oceans decline from from a place that humans used to awe and respect, to a massive free-for-all, with humans disrespecting it on every level possible. Even an 8 year old can see that there is something severely wrong with this picture. Thank goodness there are kids like these 2 smart compassionate boys who want to grow up to rectify the wrong-doings of our past generations.

    In this day and age where knowledge and the truth are no longer hidden and are now easily accessible via various forms of social media and technology, it is shameful and wrong that money should win over the well being of our planets magnificent creatures. Sea Life Hawai'i's ludicrous statement reeks of lies covered up by big bucks. Watch the YouTube clip and see for yourself. Let's break it down for what it is: A) If they were "dedicated to the highest standards of care for marine mammals" then why have 122 cetaceans died whilst under their so called 'expert' and 'professional' care?! Look at the tiny little tanks they are held captive in. Take note of the shabby enclosures. I shudder at the thought that anyone in their right mind could class the team at Sea Life Park Hawai'i as providing the highest standards of care. B) The fact that they state that none of their 'dolphins on DISPLAY' shows their absolute disregard for these intelligent marine mammals as anything but a form of human entertainment. Dolphins should not be classed as something so unfeeling as a mere display. C) Sea Life Parks last two False Killer Whales, Pseudorca crassidens: "Sirius & Arc " also known as "Pono & Maluhia" were captured right from hell on earth itself - Taiji, Japan, aka the Cove. The barbaric inhumane slaughter and capture that goes on in this small Japanese cove can only take place because entire pods of dolphins are DRIVEN into the cove by the Japanese fishermen. Sea Life Park will only acknowledge that these whales were acquired and transferred from Kamogawa SeaWorld, Japan in 1993. The fact that they hide this truth shows they know fine well that they are supporting drive hunts but are too ashamed to let the public know for fear that it might affect their bottom line. Just as as a side note, Pono and Maluhia died within 4 years of their short lives in captivity. Pono died in May 1996. Maluhia died August 1997. D) There is no such thing as a 'responsible breeding program'. When referring to dolphins the words 'responsible' and 'breeding program' do not belong in the same sentence. Dolphins do not belong to humans, it is not our right to 'breed' these animals into lives of cruel captivity.

    Ok 'nuff said. We owe it to our future generations to do the right thing. Wake up folks, step away from the TV, free yourselves from the shackles of mainstream media and see the reality of what is right in front of your eyes. It's time to elevate!

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