Oceanariums

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1996:

The city council of Vallejo, California, unanimously
agreed on October 16 to take possession of Marine
World/Africa USA, the city’s second-largest employer, and
authorized $8 million credit to keep it open through the winter.
With assets of $33 million, Marine World/Africa USA is $56
million in bond debt, and would have missed payments of $2.3
million due November 1. Attendance, hurt by rainy weekends
and failure to add new attractions, fell from 1.9 million in 1993
to a projected 1.3 million this year. Often criticized for high
gate prices and too many souvenir stands, Marine
World/Africa USA is now a nonprofit institution, but both U.S.
Mortgage Co., of Dallas, and Ogden Services Corp., of New
York, were reportedly interested in buying it and turning it into
a for-profit venture. Spokesperson Jeff Jouett told media that
there are presently no plans to close, move, or sell the animals.


Northeast Marine Animal Lifeline, a newly formed
nonprofit corporation, on October 16 began fundraising to
build a $3 million ocean wildlife hospital and laboratory at
University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. The nearest
such facility now is the New England Aquarium, in Boston.
The drive coincides with fundraising for the Gulf of Maine
Aquarium, proposed for Portland, Maine. The projects are
unrelated, but the organizers held preliminary discussion of
combining efforts, Gulf of Maine Aquarium project director
Alan Lishness told Edie Lau of the Portland Press Herald.
Public officials on October 18 dedicated the future
site of the New World Aquarium, to be built along the Fort
Lauderdale Riverwalk, but the project may be in trouble, as
the estimated cost has climbed from $56 million to $92 million
since planning started in 1994, an $84 million aquarium proposal
is under consideration in nearby Palm Beach, little of the
funding for either project has yet been secured, and the
Florida Aquarium, across the state in Tampa, has lost $7
million in less than two years while attracting barely half as
many visitors as was projected by the same accounting firm
that has produced the official projection for Fort Lauderdale.
Earth Island Institute marine mammal spokesperson
Mark Berman on October 21 asked activists to contact
Philippine authorities to oppose U.S. citizen Tim Desmond’s
application to capture dolphins in Philippine waters for both
local display and export to exhibition venues in China. Berman
identified Desmond as former trainer of the orcas Corky and
Orky at the defunct M a r i n e l a n d oceanarium in Los Angeles,
and as a longtime close associate of Jay Sweeney, DVM,
who may have captured more dolphins than any other person.
The Desmond scheme is apparently favored by Philippine
tourism officials, and may be welcomed by some marine mammal
conservationists working to save endangered Southeast
Asian cetaceans, as the growth of marine mammal parks in
North America and Europe during the 1960s and 1970s preceded
a quantum leap in public concern about marine mammals.
Gabriela Bellazzi, coordinating a national campaign
against the proposed capture of orcas off Argentina
for display at the Mar del Plata Aquarium, announced
September 26 that Argentine sub-secretary for fishing Sergio
Lorusso “told us off the record that he would not authorize the
capture,” but suggested officials eager to boost tourism might
make a political end-run around Lorusso’s office. Five orca
pods have been identified in Argentine waters.
Aquarium Adventures hopes to open in Toronto by
mid-1998, says president John Piper. Visitors will view
fish––but no marine mammals––amid a maze of translucent
swim tubes. The for-profit firm is reportedly also looking at
building aquariums in New York and Las Vegas, to compete
with major nonprofit aquariums that do have marine mammals.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center, of
Sausalito, California, reportedly told the Monterrey Bay
Aquarium in late September that it won’t be able to take over
sea otter rehabilitation, as previously planned. The aquarium,
whose management is eager to focus its sea otter program on
research, will apparently retain the lead role in sea otter rehab
pending the formation of another rehab agency.
The Vancouver Parks Board on September 30
rejected a proposal to bar the Vancouver Aquarium f r o m
acquiring cetaceans and a motion to put a referendum on
whalekeeping before the city voters in November, but adopted
as a bylaw and wrote into the aquarium’s lease an expansion of
a 1992 policy against aquiring wild-caught orcas to cover all
whales. The aquarium may still exchange cetaceans with other
institutions if they were captured before passage of the bylaw,
were rescued from stranding, or were captured as part of a recognized
effort to save an endangered species. The Vancouver
Aquarium cetaceans belong to twomating pods coordinated by
the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. The
beluga pod, captured or descended from belugas caught in the
Churchill area of Manitoba, also includes the S h e d d
Aquarium in Chicago and the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma.
The orca pod, captured or descended from orcas caught off
Iceland, includes the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Marineland
of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and the four Sea World sites.
Arguing that Marineland of Niagara Falls, Ontario,
doesn’t meet Animal Welfare Act standards for keeping marine
mammals, Zoocheck Canada and the Canadian Federation of
Humane Societies have filed a brief in opposition to a pending
Marineland application to import two bottlenose dolphins from
an unnamed U.S. facility. Marineland owner John Holer “confirmed
that he’s interested in getting more dolphins, possibly
from Sea World, to add to the three he now has,” wrote Doug
Draper of the St. Catherine’s Standard on September 30.
Ripley International expects to open the $36 million
Ripley Sea Aquarium at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina,
by next Memorial Day, president Robert E. Masterson
says––and expects to build others like it, to join the 35 Believe
It Or Not museums it runs in 11 nations. Centered around a
million-gallon saltwater fish tank, the aquarium will feature
1,000 fish species, but no marine mammals. It may doom
Charleston’s $50 million South Carolina Aquarium, for
which just 22 of 349 foundation pilings were driven in the first
year of construction, due to unforeseen site instability.

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