200,000 Signatures Gained In Protest Of New Mississippi Aquarium’s Plans For Holding Dolphins In Captivity

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A vigil for marine life was held yesterday on the steps of City Hall in Gulfport, Mississippi, in an effort to stop the captivity of dolphins at the new Gulfport Aquarium which is scheduled to open in 2019.

Doll Stanley, with In Defense of Animals, simultaneously brought a petition with 200,000 signatures of people who are opposed to dolphin captivity before city leaders at Gulfport’s City Council meeting yesterday afternoon.

In Defense of Animals has suggested an ordinance Prohibiting the Use of Cetaceans within Gulfport, which aims to prevent the ongoing use and abuse of dolphins and whales in captivity. It would allow the dolphins that are already scheduled to be shipped to the new “dolphin prison” but no more after that.

“Mississippi Aquarium’s plans swim against the tide of compassion with many states, cities, and nations taking steps to outlaw dolphin captivity,” said Stanley. “The world around us is outlawing the imprisonment of highly intelligent and sensitive animals, which makes the aquarium a risky investment for Gulfport. We urge Mayor Hewes to do the right thing and keep dolphins out of the Mississippi Aquarium and in the oceans where they belong.”

In Defense of Animals, Sonar, and the Animal Advocacy Initiative of Mississippi sponsored the ordinance that would set an important precedent by asserting dolphins’ right not to be used for entertainment, education or research.

David Kimmel, Mississippi Aquarium President, and CEO is reportedly almost as controversial as the plan to display captive dolphins.

According to In Defense of Animals, Kimmel was formerly CEO of the Georgia Aquarium, a facility that was shamed on the organization’s 10 Worst Tanks list because of 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.

While opposition to dolphin captivity grows in Mississippi, change is slowly 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.

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