With SeaWorld seeing attendance dips, its CEO step down, and people protesting the Miami Seaqiarium's captivity of Lolita, more and more people are getting involved in trying to save aquatic animals from being used as playthings for tourists.
Now a new petition, this one targeting "swimming with dolphins" programs, has hit the internet pleading for Congress to step in and end the programs.
Swimming with dolphins is a popular tourist attraction throughout the state, including in South Florida, where you can swim with a porpoise for $100 a session.
The petition, written by Ric O'Barry, former dolphin trainer on the 1960s TV show Flipper, and sponsored by his Dolphin Project, says swimming with dolphins programs pose a health risk not only to the animals but to people as well.
"There are hundreds of documented cases of injuries from participants, including reports that humans have been rammed or bitten by dolphins during their interactions," the petition reads. "It is next to impossible to determine the behavior of a cetacean on a daily basis, especially considering captive dolphins are stressed and frustrated. Expecting the dolphins, children, and adults to follow the rules is extremely far-fetched."
The petition also points out that businesses that offer swimming with dolphins are left to police the programs themselves, meaning the animals are often forced into working sessions all day without a break and without regulation. That's because government regulations on the practice have been canceled, which means that businesses can do what they want to earn those extra bucks -- even if means working a dolphin to death.
"These cetaceans are worked until they die, and these facilities only care about making a profit," the petition adds.
The petition, which has already garnered more than 10,000 signatures, comes at a time when the cruelty of keeping an animal in captivity is being shown brightly in the public eye.
Thanks to popular documentaries like Blackfish and The Cove, which can be found on places like Netflix, more and more people are coming to realize that keeping a dolphin or whale inside a tank for nothing more than people's amusement is wrong and immoral.
And the outcry is reaching the ears of businesses that keep animals in captivity.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the National Aquarium in Baltimore recently announced that it's looking into building an oceanside sanctuary for its dolphins.
PETA has suggested that SeaWorld do the same for its orcas.
SeaWorld, which has received the biggest backlash from the public, has scoffed at the notion of building sanctuaries for its orcas, but PETA, which owns shares in the company, is planning to bring up the idea again this year.
SeaWorld has had it rough since the release of Blackfish, which focuses on the dangers and cruelty of keeping orcas in captivity. Popular artists have backed away from performing at a concert festival hosted by the theme park, and protesters have constantly shown up anywhere SeaWorld has a public presence.
When shareholders meet this year, PETA will be there to propose its sanctuary plan.
"We're proposing SeaWorld develop these sanctuaries wherever it's best for the animals," PETA's director of animal law, Jared Goodman, told New Times. "SeaWorld, as a global company, is in a position to do this and make this happen, if they choose to."
Meanwhile, the "end the swimming with dolphins" petition is almost ready to go to Congress. The petition needs 12,800 signatures. Those interested in signing it can do so here.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to New Times Broward-Palm Beach's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling South Florida's stories with no paywalls.