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article imageOp-Ed: Why the hell has Marineland Canada not been closed down?

By Elizabeth Batt     Aug 25, 2012 in Environment
Niagara Falls - Former trainers with Marineland in Canada recently blew the whistle on the park for keeping its animals in deplorable conditions. Considering Marineland's history with its animals, why the hell is this aquarium being afforded an investigation?
On August 15, Linda Diebel of the Toronto Star released an expose of Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, that by rights should have sealed the door of the aquarium forever. In hand, the Star produced photos, videos and documents that not only supported the accounts of the former employees, but detailed the atrocious conditions its animals were forced to endure.
In responding to the allegations, John Holer, the owner of Marineland for 51 years, denied that there were any problems with water quality at the park or that unhealthy water had harmed marine mammals. "All of our facilities are legal" Holer told the Star.
Well shame on those who legalized the facility, and any organization who endorsed the aquarium. This includes the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), who launched an investigation of the facility last Thursday.
Folks might be forgiven for thinking you could trust the OSPCA to do a decent job, but in 1998, when Zoocheck Canada visited Marineland with a group of marine mammal experts and unearthed appalling conditions, the OSPCA didn't do much at all.
In fact, when Zoocheck revealed these conditions, and sent notification of them to the OSPCA, they asked that their findings be presented to the board. According to the Star, "The OSPCA refused," but did investigate, and reported that there were no problems at the facility."
No problems at the facility, yet here we are again, 14 years later.
Also investigating Marineland, is CAZA, the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who said Marineland, has found "no major issues" with the aquarium at all. Of course they would say that; CAZA is a self-regulating entity, who might have to answer to their own potential incompetence as the only "watchdog" for animal facilities in Canada.
But why does Marineland still have its animals when commonsense and a simple peek into the aquarium's history would tell even non-experts, everything they need to know. One only has to examine its history with killer whales for example.
According to Wendy Brunot of Without Me There is No You, Zoocheck Canada shows that Marineland has exhibited 29 killer whales since 1970. Today, they have one remaining orca left, 35-year-old Kiska.
Of these 29 orcas, (nine of which were transferred to other facilities), only two of them are still alive today. That is twenty killer whales that have died while in Marineland Canada’s care. Zoocheck reveals Marineland's wall of shame in all its glory, here.
Even SeaWorld, who had loaned Marineland a male killer whale called Ikaika in 2006, was forced into a suit in 2011 with the Canadian park to get the orca back. "Concerned about Ikaika’s physical and psychological health if he remained at aquarium," said the Orca Project, SeaWorld wanted Ike back.
But Marineland wasn't happy about it Brunot said, and:
Filed suit against SeaWorld in retaliation to SeaWorld’s request to bring Ike back to SeaWorld … it became a bitter custody dispute with SeaWorld prevailing in the end.
Often, it is the animals squirreled away who bore the brunt of Marineland's awful legacy, such as Junior, a wild-caught orca captured in 1984 off the coast of Iceland, who spent the last five years of his life confined to a concrete pool at an indoor facility called "The Barn."
Cara Sands, fresh out of film school, followed and documented Junior's sad existence. After his capture, Sands told the Star that initially, Junior was curious, but after 4 years "without normal stimulation and without sunlight," she said, the orca "was lethargic, very beat up and just floating. He faced the wall away from me and didn’t move his dorsal fin. He just rolled over and opened his mouth. This whale was completely broken, his spirit was gone."
Junior died 18 years ago, after what must have been an unimaginable life for a killer whale that once swam in the vast open ocean. As highly social as these marine mammals are, his captivity can only have been torturous, akin to keeping a human being in solitary confinement. Junior was just one of several Marineland mammals confined to 'The Barn,' an area whose name has now become synonymous with suffering.
Zoocheck says that the situation at Marineland:
Is the result of no licensing, no regulation, no comprehensive, objective standards for animal housing and care at the provincial level, and no public notification process or oversight of the importation of marine mammals at the federal level.
But it doesn't take an animal expert to realize that Marineland stinks worse than the water its mammals are forced to swim in. An investigation at this stage of the game is an insult to every animal lover out there. The proof is in the pudding as we like to say in the UK, and Marineland's pudding was cooked years ago. Based on the aquarium's history alone, the investigation should be saved for the agencies that perpetuated the situation.
It's time to get the animals out now and send them to a facility where they'll be genuinely taken care of. It's time to close Marineland's doors forever. The need to follow the laws and regulations now that it suits them, is an insult. Isn't 51 years of hell on earth enough already for these critters?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about marineland canada, marine mammals suffering, Zoocheck canada, Ospca
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