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Friday, June 24, 2011

Missed Opportunity by Atlanta Press

Missed opportunity for the media to tell both sides of the cetacean captivity issue!

On Saturday, June 18, 2011 the group “Free the Atlanta 11”, Pete Bethune of Earthrace Conservation Organization, and many other concerned citizens of Atlanta, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina joined in a worldwide protest against the captivity of all cetaceans (dolphins and whales).  The event was created on Facebook by the page “Save Misty the Dolphin” who called the event “Just Say No To The Dolphin Show” and invited anyone, anywhere around the world to protest the venues holding cetaceans in captivity on that day.  This would be the third event at the GA Aquarium held by the Free the Atlanta 11 group since the dolphin show opened in April 2011.

Group members started setting up the event outside the GA Aquarium entrance at about 9:00 a.m.  Once the large flat screen TV and generator were set up, security from the aquarium and the local police department started with their tactics to disrupt the educational event.  First, the aquarium had hired a DJ and had the music up so loud that it was difficult for the people in line for the aquarium to hear the person next to them.  Why was the music up so loud?  The aquarium obviously didn't want the people in line to hear our message.  Next, we were told we couldn’t run the generator until we had the Fire Marshal come out and inspect the generator.  Once that issue was solved, Pete Bethune spoke with one of the officials there and asked that they turn the music down.  They agreed to do so, if Pete promised that the group had no plans to “storm the entrance” of the aquarium.  Pete agreed and the music was turned off for approximately one hour.  During that time, Pete led the group in chants to help draw attention to the event.  With megaphone in hand, Pete would shout, “Come on Atlanta, whata ya say?” using his captivating New Zealand accent. The rest of the attendees responded with “Free the dolphins, free them today!”  Eventually security and aquarium employees lined the area in front of the group, ushering people past us as if to protect them.  Clearly there was no reason to do that except to keep the group from passing out their educational brochures and DVDs to those entering the aquarium.

Along with passing out our literature, the group came up with something that definitely caught the eye of those waiting in the long lines outside the aquarium, MESSAGE BOARDS!  The boards spelled out facts about dolphins in captivity and some little known facts about the pools where the dolphins are held during “off times” inside the aquarium.  Starting out with “DID YOU KNOW?” on the first set of boards and going on to tell about how two of the four pools are only 12 ft. deep.  You could see people in line straining to read what was coming up next on the message, waiting in anticipation for the next little bit of educational information they could read. At the beginning and end of the message line, information was posted about how dolphins swim 100 plus miles per day and dive to depths of 300 feet in the wild, which raises the question, “Is 12 ft., 14 ½ ft., or even 24 ft. (the aquarium pool depths) really enough for an animal that is used to diving up to 300 feet?”

Members of the group O.M.G., One More Generation, were also there to lend their support of the event. Several members of the group watched as they witnessed more than 20 people get out of line for the aquarium. 

Some information about PETE BETHUNE: 

New Zealand environmentalist, Pete Bethune, is the holder of the global circumnavigation speed record for a powerboat.  The record was broken in his boat, Earthrace, using 100% biofuel from sustainable sources to raise awareness of the use of renewable fuels.

Pete later took the boat, by then re-named Ady Gil, to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, where it aided in a campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet.  In a shocking twist that was reported around the world, the boat was rammed, and Bethune ended up being transported back to Japan to face charges including trespass, after he boarded the offending whaling vessel from a jet ski to demand recompense from the Captain. 

Returning to New Zealand with a two year sentence suspended for five years, Pete remained committed to the environment and marine conservation in particular.  He formed Earthrace Conservation to give everyone an opportunity to get involved and do something extraordinary to preserve and protect our oceans and all marine life. 

 In Conclusion:

Unfortunately, the press ignored our request for coverage of the event.  It’s quite obvious to those of us in attendance, that the press has no intention of telling both sides of this issue unless perhaps something drastic takes place.  Free the Atlanta 11 is determined to educate as many people about dolphin and whale captivity as possible and won’t rest until the dolphins and whales inside the GA Aquarium are rescued and given a chance to be rehabilitated and live in the wild as they were intended.


On another note, we would like to make you aware that one of the whale sharks, Yushan, currently being held captive at the GA Aquarium, is on a 24/7 watch due to complications.  This information was given to us by sources inside the GA Aquarium.  Whale Sharks and Beluga Whales seem to have a high mortality rate within those walls!  Will it be the dolphins next?  Is that what it will take to wake up the press and the public?  Certainly everyone loves dolphins and whales and has a desire to view them, but at what cost to the cetaceans? We are loving them to death! 

Free the Atlanta 11                                         

Becky Pugh
David Drolet
Sara McKay
Rob Garvey
Martha Brock

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