At question is the National Marine Fisheries Service's permitting process that requires that education and conservation - not entertainment - be the foundation for issuing permits to hold marine mammals in captivity. Whether this is being adhered to or that it requires some tightening is one of the key issues. As you can expect, there will be significant pressure from organizations like SeaWorld to keep things as status quo.
There is a public comment period that expires Friday, May 7th. If you would like to send a brief and respectful comment, you can email subcommittee clerk Katherine Romans at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is some suggested copy from David Phillips of the "The Cove" - Save the Dolphins group:
"There is no educational value to the whale and dolphin shows prominent within public display facilities today. The ethics of riding atop these wild animals, feeding and forcing interactions with them, goes against everything we are taught about them – in fact, those types of encounters are illegal in the wild. And yet, public display facilities promote this bad behavior and even encourage it for paying customers.
This is a manipulation of fact for the benefit of financial enterprise.
I strongly urge you to establish strong oversight of the education programs for public display facilities of marine mammals. Under the current law they have become performance spectacles that serve our amusement rather than our education."
Here is the body of the email I sent:
"Dear Ms. Romans:
Please forward or print this email for the appropriate subcommittee members.
Since the very first marine mammals (ie: whales and dolphins) were placed in captivity, scientists have learned more about the intelligence and complex social and physiological behaviors of theses animals – behaviors that are in direct conflict with the conditions that these animals are subjected to today while in captivity. While scientific study and educational outreach to better understand mankind’s impact globally on marine mammal populations is a valid activity, the priority today of marine amusement parks like SeaWorld is entertainment and an economic return on investment. We have evolved beyond the need for animals jumping through flaming hoops or balancing balls on their noses to appreciate their important roles within a marine ecosystem.
While some might advocate the release of all captive marine mammals, I side with those advocates, like Jean-Michel Cousteau, who feel that these animals have, unfortunately, been in captivity long enough (some since birth) that the prospects for successful introduction into the open oceans is doubtful. However, I support a ban on seeing any other marine mammals taken captive in the future accept for quantified and justified scientific research solely and not for public display.
Congress needs to initiate agencies to exercise greater oversight in granting permits for the capture and display of whales and dolphins. Large pelagic animals – animals that roam the open seas – should not be subjected to the confines of tanks and forced to perform tricks for our amusement. We are a better species than that. And these species deserve better treatment than that.
Yes, I know. I run a bit long. So, pick and choose as you like, but send something to Ms. Romans today.
Read USA Today article about upcoming Congressional hearing.