Ocean Talk: Are Public Aquariums Good For Ocean Conservation

By April 24, 2013Ocean Talk

Aquariums are great tools for connecting the public with marine life and hopefully inspire people of all ages to take care of the Ocean and its species, but should aquariums be held to a higher standard when in comes to Ocean conservation efforts?

Public Aquariums: Do they do enough for Ocean Conservation

A couple of weeks ago, Speak Up For Blue contributor Rebecca Dolson examined this question in great detail. To sum up the article, it discussed issues such as the health of aquarium animals especially large animals like whale sharks and marine mammals (whales, dolphins, seals, and polar bears), and mentioned some of the programs offered by specific aquariums and zoos that were exceptional.

After I read this great article, I had a feeling that it would stir up some debate because some people love aquariums and others hate them because they don’t think animals should be locked up in a cage or a tank.

Of course, the purpose of aquariums is to educate the public on Ocean Species and habitats by bringing part of the Ocean to the public, but is that enough? Should aquariums go above and beyond their exhibits to go conduct Ocean Conservation in the sea?

These are some of the questions that we explore here on the first ever Ocean Talk, a show where we bring on guests to discuss Ocean Conservation related topics to help progress Ocean Conservation and bring you, our Ocean Leader Community, into the conversation!

Check out our first Ocean Talk on the issue of whether Public Aquariums should do more for Ocean Conservation.

If you want us to talk about a specific Ocean Topic then please go on Twitter and add your topic with the hashtag #OceanTalk. You can also take part in the discussions by going to twitter or adding in the comments below and say “Speak Up For Blue, I want to Speak Up for my Ocean!” with the hashtag #OceanTalk.

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Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • We need to continue developing a healthy, vibrant closed aquatic environment. Public aquariums and zoos continue to research and develop a balanced ecosystem. Closed aquatic environments are very beneficial for fish farming to develop food for 7 billion, sequestration of carbon from fossil fuels, biofuel, medical cures, aquarist, etc, etc. For profit is the only way to reinvest in human kind.

  • jany maxwell says:

    I am opposed to Orca, Dolphin and Beluga in particular being kept in Captivity.. There is no longer the need for education of these species and it is proven how damaging it is to these mammals. Who need family socialisation and long range distance for food seeking behaviours. These 3 in particular are in my opinion purely for money making entertainment. The public are fast changing the attitude that it is not good for the mammals and would rather see them in the wild. Dolphins have their sonar destroyed by being in a tank and exhibit psychotic behaviour (and our closest relative) and Orca just go plain crazy. Dolphin will even commit suicide when they can no longer cope with confinement. Other marine species are possibly acceptable so the public has an enjoyment of Marine life.. Monterey Aquarium is a good example of this.

  • Anonymous says:

    I appreciate that you kept mentioning caveats: that you aren’t a veterinarian, that you don’t know the standards aquariums are held to, that you’re not *sure* if these places have conservation programs. This would be a much more impactful communication strategy if you actually knew those things before you went “on air.” Mostly, your arguments lacked evidence, fact checking, and generalizability. One experience seeing a dolphin bleed does not mean aquariums are abusive. Please do your homework before engaging in dialogue that critiques an entire field that, if you actually did read about it beforehand, contributes quite a lot to conservation and science, in addition to the educational roles these organizations are primed to play. No good comes of people conjecturing, using one-time examples, and speaking without knowledge. This is an important issue and I applaud your effort to tackle it, but you did so ineffectively and with an implied drama rather than established expertise.

  • Andrew Lewin says:

    Thanks for your comments. You do have a point; however, I do think that starting a discussion on this topic without knowing everything on the entire industry is still valuable as it can generate much more discussion to people bringing in facts and personal experiences to the discussion through our comments, which many people did on various groups and social media sites where we posted the Ocean Talk Video.

    Our goal was not to criticize the public aquarium industry, but we wanted to state our opinions on how we felt on places that housed marine mammals and large fish (whale sharks). The “one time” of a dolphin bleeding was not the only time reported of a marine mammal hurt at Marineland, which we state in the video. IT doesn’t have a great reputation on how they treat the animals.

    I personally feel that many public aquariums do a great job, which I also state in the video, I just don’t feel that some of their conservation programs are that great…just my opinion, which is what Ocean Talk is all about.

    I encourage you to post a link in the comments of some great conservation programs run by the Public Aquarium industry so I can post it on the site to point our community to go see and learn about these programs.

    Thanks for the Comments!

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  • I guess larger animals will need more space to really grow and live. This is similar to should we keep elephants in zoos? I think unless they are endangered and needs conservation, then we should just leave them in the wild.

  • Andrew Lewin says:

    I agree James. Larger animals will need more space and some may be required to have stringent water quality requirements.

    As for endangered species, some cases may be better to have endangered species in aquariums or zoos as it might protecting better if they are under poaching poaching pressure.

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