WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Protestors take a stand against dolphin and whale captivity at one of Hawaii's most popular attractions.
Dozens gathered in front of Sea Life Park in Waimanalo on Saturday to say, "That's enough!"
They're asking the park, and others like it around the world, to empty their tanks and let all whales and dolphins free.
"Over the 50 years that marine mammals have been held captive, if there's anything that we've learned, is that they belong in the wild,” said protestor John Oakley.
Oakley says he worked at Sea Life Park Hawaii for 18 years and used to be a senior trainer. But he now protests against them and how they treat their marine mammals.
"There's no retirement for many of these marine mammals that live here that are just about as old as I am. And they will work these mammals until the very day that they die. They are nothing more than a commodity to the owners of these company," Oakley said.
Many of those protesting say they got involved with the global initiative, Empty the Tanks Worldwide, after watching two documentaries: Blackfish and The Cove.
"Depending on the species of dolphins, some are picked for captivity and others that aren't picked for captivity are usually slaughtered…and they're watching their family members being slaughtered in front of their faces…and then they are driven away from their family into tiny sea pens where they are going to be chosen to go to different marine parks," said protester Kirsten Ramirez.
Ramirez says she's witnessed the mass slaughters in Japan first-hand.
"It's a really raw, horrendous experience, but so grateful I went. And people really need to understand, that's what the marine parks don't want us to know, that's the truth behind these marine parks," Ramirez said.
Spokeswoman for Saturday's protest Lorri Crockett says although Sea Life Park Hawaii says they breed their own dolphins, it doesn't mean that what they are doing is right.
"They've had them from the Taiji in the past, and when dolphins die, they just get another one, so where are they gonna get those dolphins from?" Crockett said.
Sea Life Park declined our request for an interview, but released a statement saying,
For more than 50 years, Sea Life Park and its affiliated research facility, the Oceanic Institute, has made it their utmost priority to provide an unparalleled level of care and a safe home for all our animals that represent the birds, mammals, turtles and fish that live in and near the ocean, including species native to Hawai‘i.
As a member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, we place the care and well being of our marine mammals above all else. Our animals receive constant attention and affection, as well as the best food, shelter, and veterinary care possible. This includes keeping on-site professionals and world-class experts on retainer to the Park – people with the knowledge to provide for our animals' every need.
None of our dolphins on display at Sea Life Park have been acquired through drive hunts. The majority of our dolphins were born at the Park through a responsible breeding program.
Our green sea turtle breeding program plays a key role in educating the public about the challenges that endangered green sea turtles face in the wild. We are also the only location on O‘ahu to provide rescue and rehabilitation services for native Hawaiian seabirds, including the endangered shearwaters. Our Hawaiian monk seals are governed by a permit under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The Park fulfills a noble mission: to educate residents and locals alike about Hawaii's marine environment, while encouraging conservation awareness and action.