Courtesy of the first annual International Empty the Tanks event on Saturday, marine mammal parks around the globe will host some extra (and perhaps less welcome) visitors to their venues.
Since its inception by animal advocate Rachel Greenhalgh, the Empty the Tanks event has sparked the imaginations of anti-captivity enthusiasts around the world. Eleven countries and 23 cities later, aquariums from SeaWorld San Diego to Ocean Park, Hong Kong, will each be protested for their exploitation of marine mammals.
"This is a day for everyone around the world to stand up against marine mammal captivity," wrote Greenhalgh on the event's primary Facebook page. "The abuse and exploitation of these sentient beings has no place in the 21st century," she said.
Digital Journal asked Greenhalgh where the inspiration for the event came from, and did she ever expect that it would grow so large? The cetacean activist responded:
The inspiration for this event came from my time in Taiji as a Cove Guardian. Leaving Taiji and the dolphins there is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and I wanted to find a way to come home and continue fighting for them. I wanted to find a way to channel my emotions and be productive. The captive dolphins of Taiji and the captive marine mammals all over the world were my inspiration for this event.
I am beyond thrilled with the response this event has received. What started as an idea to protest all the SeaWorld locations on a single day has grown into a worldwide event with 24 locations in 11 countries. So many amazing people have stepped forward to be location organizers and I am so impressed with them all. This event would not be happening without those people.
With heavy focus on cetacean captivity in the media, primarily due to the newly-released movie 'Blackfish' and David Kirby's bestselling book: Death at SeaWorld, cetacean advocates are rallying to firmly push the anti-captivity message home.
While many marine parks will shy away from any additional spotlights, the recent press frenzy may not have reached the ears of Hong Kong just yet.
Studio 3 Alex Choi Photography
Zoe Ng with friend Suzette, at a fundraiser and educational show against dolphin captivity. "Suzette will be traveling to Taiji, Japan for the second time this year," Ng said.
Zoe Ng, the host of the Empty the Tanks event at Ocean Park, Hong Kong, reports that the aquarium has been surprisingly helpful and even accommodating for her protest. Ng told Digital Journal that she has enjoyed open correspondence with the park since day one.
Having invited her to tour their facilities, Ng met with park chairman, Dr. Allan Zemen, Todd Houghland, Matthais Li and Una Wang, to discuss her protest along with her concerns over captive cetaceans.
Surprisingly, not only did Ocean Park graciously grant Ng approval to host the event by their entrance, they even offered her a display table for her leaflets.
Ng said that it was important to give the park credit for what it has done. "I highly respect their conservation efforts and the improvements and changes Ocean Park has made," she told Digital Journal.
The cetacean advocate highlighted how in 2011, the park declined the option to bring in belugas captured from the wild. The facility has also been addressing environmental threats with the correct governmental departments and is fully supportive in the campaign against shark finning.
Ng's purpose for hosting the event however, remains stalwart. She wants to bring attention to the issue of dolphin captivity in Hong Kong and ask Ocean Park to align with other countries who are embracing a global trend in captivity awareness.
"Their facilities would be fantastic for rescue and rehabilitation," Ng told me, "and they would still be educational." The dolphins in residence at Ocean Park she added, "could potentially retire to a seapen sanctuary."
Worldwide Empty the Tanks
Official banner of the protest.
This Saturday, Ng will stand with other like-minded individuals outside of Ocean Park between 10:00 AM and 12:30 PM for a respectful and educational protest. A letter outlining the reasoning behind the Empty the Tanks event will be handed to Timothy Ng (no relation), the head of Ocean Park's Conservation Department.
With identical intentions at facilities around the world, many others will join Ng in standing as one voice for captive cetaceans. "I hope my words resonate well with them," Ng said. "I pray that in my lifetime, I will witness the phase out of dolphin captivity at Ocean Park Hong Kong."
For further information on the first International Empty the Tanks Event, visit the main Facebook page for access to all global event locations or drop by Empty the Tanks Worldwide.com. Zoe Ng's event page can be accessed here.