From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1996:

Sea World took a high profile
in marine mammal rescue
efforts at opposite corners of the U.S.
in early April:
• In Florida, Sea World
Orlando biology staff led efforts to
discover the cause of 238 wild manatee
deaths––more than ever before
recorded even over a full year––during
the first third of 1996. The toll of 100
through the first 90 days of the year
was already considered alarming,
when 138 more died between March 5
and April 20. About 2,600 manatees
inhabited Florida waters when the
deaths began. Strangely, all of the
victims have been adults. The deaths
roughly coincide with a toxic red tide
that hit 150 miles of Florida’s South
Gulf Coast in April, and red tides can
be lethal to manatees: a red tide in
1982 killed 39 manatees. However,
forensic examination of remains hasn’t
found any direct link between the red
tide and the deaths.

• On April 5, Sea World
and the Point Defiance Zoo and
Aquarium of Tacoma offered to take
in Hondo and four other California sea
lion bulls who were apparently within
hours of being shot for their habit of
waiting at the foot of the fish ladders
at Ballard Locks, near Seattle,
ambushing steelhead trying to make
their spawning runs and thereby
threatening to wipe out several biologically
unique endangered runs. The
National Marine Fisheries Service
and the Washington Department of
Fish and Wildlife both promptly
accepted the offer. Hondo, weighing
more than 1,000 pounds, has been a
popular local character since 1988.
He’s also a missing character, reportedly
last seen in January.
The Vancouver Park
Board on April 10 asked the city legal
department for advice in drafting a
bylaw to ban further imports of whales
into Stanley Park, home of the
Vancouver Aquarium. According to
Annelise Sorg of the Coalition for No
Whales In Captivity, “The proposed
bylaw might even ban captivity altogether,
but would have some sort of
grandparent clause for the existing collection.”
The Park Board also asked
the aquarium for a policy statement
“clarifying whether it is planning to
expand the orca pool and import more
cetaceans,” Sorg said. “It was further
requested that the aquarium produce a
report on how much it would affect its
finances if the whale and dolphin programs
eventually decline.” The
Vancouver Aquarium, which 30 years
ago was the first ever to capture an
orca, now has the orcas Finna and
Bjossa; five belugas; and a Pacific
whitesided dolphin. The orca tank is
much smaller than the current standard,
set by Sea World, but the Park
Board has blocked attempts to expand
into the space formerly occupied by
the defunct Stanley Park Zoo.
Two years after Ric
O’Barry of The Dolphin Project and
Russ Rector of the Dolphin Freedom
Foundation began complaining about
alleged structural deficiencies at the
Miami Seaquarium, the Seaquarium
closed under pressure from Metro
Miami to fix a 26-year-old grandstand.
“Saltwater splashed by L o l i t a , t h e
Seaquarium’s orca, has eaten away at
the steel rods that support the stands,”
Don Frefrock of the Miami Herald
reported. “We have to do maintenance,”
Seaquarium chief executive
Arthur Hertz acknowledged. “It
could be days; it could be weeks.”

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