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A waterfront institution?!

The cost of the Morro Bay 'Aquarium' is too high



In the words of Neil Farrel et al, “the Morro Bay Aquarium is a legitimate tourist attraction ... an institution on the waterfront entertaining countless people” (“Save the Morro Bay Aquarium,” Bay News, May 23).

I don’t know how many of you who live in the Morro Bay area have visited Dean and Bertha’s nonprofit “rehabilitation facility” and aquarium, but if you have not, do so—and if you can walk out of that horrible place without real compassion for the animals institutionalized within and not be convinced that the animals kept within are sad, poorly treated, cramped, and living in below-standard conditions for any marine mammal of their size, then I will gladly meet with you in person and pin an “I’m a hard-hearted ass bite!” button on your chest.

If you agree that watching sea lions beg for food in cramped quarters is educational for our children and gives them a real respect for marine creatures and an understanding of a working marine ecosystem, then stand in line; you get a bumper sticker that reads “ Dominion over nature ... it’s man’s right!”

If you can pass by the “aquarium’s” tanks at night and see the sea lions longingly look out to the channel, listening to others of their species call to each other and freely splash in the moonlight without experiencing an unimaginable feeling of sadness, then maybe you too should look into becoming a biased, good-ol-boys-enraptured journalist!

If you can walk out of the Morro Bay “Aquarium” (and I use the word aquarium in its loosest definition here) without recognizing that this kind of tourist attraction is not a boon, but a blow to the city’s image as a Marine Protected Area, a National Estuary, and a city where we value our connection to the ocean and the beauty of the nature surrounding us, then come with me out on the estuary. I will show you the real beauty of our beloved wildlife in natural settings—the real tourist attraction here.

Yes, the Morro Bay “Aquarium” has entertained multitudes of people, but at what cost? It has cost the animals imprisoned there their short, miserable lives. It has cost the city its credibility as an eco-tourism destination. It has cost the conscience of a community that has always prided itself on its recognition of the value of wild nature. It has cost future generations of children their knowledge of what is truly humane and appropriate when interacting with creatures.

The cost is too great!

The only people truly benefiting from the aquarium’s existence are the Tylers themselves. The aquarium is lucrative. Let’s face it, folks; I don’t think they are keeping the animals out of the goodness of their hearts, as many would believe. They are keeping marine mammals in a for-profit business under the guise of a nonprofit entity. The fact that they have been allowed to do so is a testament to yet another antiquated and inappropriate institution, the California Department of Fish and Game (now misnamed Fish and Wildlife).

Like any other institution that is no longer working for the benefit of the beings in its care, the Morro Bay “Aquarium” needs to be mothballed and its inhabitants relocated to places that will allow them to live the remainder of their lives in as pleasant an environment as possible.

Coming to the aid of a couple that has benefited from the discomfort and abuse of other living beings in the name of maintaining a Morro Bay institution is not what our priorities as a city should be. Let’s spend our time, money, and focus on real educational opportunities for the public and find a better use for the lease site. Let’s take a stand for a compassionate and conscious future for our community.

Tradition should serve the community and earth; maintaining the viability of an antiquated “institution” in the name of tradition makes no sense.


Mandy Davis lives in Morro Bay. Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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