Even years after the event, the 2010 BP oil spill had an immense impact on the surrounding ecosystem, including countless animals. Among other species, dolphins have suffered the on-going consequences of being exposed to oil toxins.

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Between 2010 and 2013, the number of unexplained dolphin strandings, also known as “unusual mortality events,” in the Gulf rose noticeably. While it may be true that fluctuations in temperature and other factors could have contributed to some recent dolphin deaths, it hardly seems feasible that this was the case for 94 percent of the 1,035 dolphins who washed ashore already dead. Researchers who followed the dolphins over a three-year period found others suffering from hormonal imbalances, pneumonia, and liver disease. And Lori Schwacke, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher, and lead author of the study proclaimed, “I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals.”

Knowing this, you would think that great efforts would be made to restore the natural habitat to its original condition to help dolphins recover. But instead, Mississippi is now planning to spend $17 million in restoration funds to… build an aquarium on the coast and display captive dolphins there.

After all of the pain and illness these animal experienced, this seems like the worst possible idea.

Marine mammals do not belong in captivity. The animals experience severe stress in the small and unnatural surroundings of aquariums. They cannot engage in their natural behaviors and simply become incredibly bored, anxious, and uneasy, every day of their lives. That leads to aggression which rarely occurs in their natural habitat. Many whales and dolphins shut off in captivity come to display abnormal repetitive behaviors – they experience zoochosis, a disorder similar to prison neurosis. They also fall prey to untypical diseases reserved for aquarium animals.

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As highlighted in a Care2 petition, the Mississippi Gulf has great wild dolphin pods, which would make it possible for tourists to see these beautiful animals  – as they should be seen – in their natural habitat.  Seeing the dolphins in a new aquarium we would not be seeing the real nature of these animals, but one painfully distorted by their limited and altered living conditions. Is paying to watch suffering, distressed animals really what we want to do?

The construction the aquarium has already started. Click here to sign the petition to the Governor and state restoration leaders to abandon their plans to fund the aquarium with BP restoration dollars!

Image source: Bobbi Jones Jones/publicdomainpictures

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