Target: Phil Bryant, Mississippi Governor
Goal: Prevent Mississippi from redirecting oil spill recovery dollars toward building a new aquarium.
In 2010, a British Petroleum oil rig exploded off the Gulf of Mexico, discharging over three million barrels of oil into the water. The spill devastated marine and bird life while contaminating 1,100 miles of coastline. The environmental and economic recovery of the region, which includes Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana, is still in progress. Despite the catastrophic impact of the spill, the Mississippi governor plans to divert $17 million worth of restoration funds toward building a dolphin aquarium in Gulfport, MS. Not only would this take away much needed dollars from environmental cleanup, it would continue the harmful practice of keeping dolphins in captivity. These restoration funds should be put toward the purpose for which they were intended – cleaning up the gulf.
The oil spill has had disastrous environmental effects that continue to this day, particularly on birds and marine life. More than 800,000 birds were killed by the oil spill, including 30 percent of the laughing gulls and 12 percent of the brown pelicans in the area the spill covered. By the end of 2015, 1,400 dolphins and whales had been discovered beached as a result of the spill. Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network, claims, “It’s [the oil spill] not publicly seen but it is out there. It’s in the marine environment. And so whether we see it or not the potential impacts of its presence may plague us for decades.”
In addition to hindering the cleanup efforts, Governor Bryant’s plan is also harmful to the dolphins kept in captivity. Dolphins are migratory animals that live in close family groups. In captivity, they can neither travel nor establish a family group. Captivity causes high mortality rates and high infant death rates for the dolphins imprisoned.
Governor Bryant touts the new aquarium as a boost for the economy. However, there are other ways to grow the economy, such as helping the marine fisheries industry that has been devastated by the oil spill. Tell the governor to stop the investment in the aquarium project and put the money where it belongs — helping the environment and local industries recover from the spill.
Dear Governor Bryant,
The plan to use British Petroleum oil spill restoration dollars on a new aquarium must end. It is harmful to the dolphins placed in captivity and it diverts much needed funds away from the cleanup effort. You have embraced this plan as a way to increase economic growth in the state. However, there are other ways to do this, like investing in the state’s fisheries industry that was demolished by the spill and is still recovering. Take the money from the aquarium and use it to mitigate the effects of the spill on the environment and local businesses.
The aquarium plan is damaging both to the environment and to the dolphins held in captivity. Captive dolphins experience high mortality rates and high infant death rates. Over 1,400 dolphins have already been killed in the Gulf of Mexico due to the oil spill. Do you really want to increase that number?
There is strong opposition to the aquarium plan. Care2, a non-profit advocacy organization, released a petition to stop the project that garnered 96,000 signatures. While most of those who signed are not from Mississippi, they are potential tourists. As awareness about dolphins in captivity increases, an aquarium may not be a good long-term investment.
In an interview with the Sun Herald, you said that “naysayers will insist the project won’t be done.” We do insist and it’s for good reason. Give the money back to the environment and the local businesses destroyed by the spill.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Dennis Spelt