The plan to expand the Virginia Marine Science Museum to include a new 55 million dollar dolphin tank has been pulled by the Virginia Beach City Council after a firestorm of protest over the last year.
AWI international coordinator Ben White and friend MacDonald Hawley traveled to Virginia Beach twice to speak at the request of Dolphin Liberty, the grassroots organization that coordinated opposition to the proposed dolphin tank. The visits became an issue when revealed that local police sent an undercover police officer to the meetings. When questioned by the press, the police chief explained that the group had invited people with "criminal backgrounds" to speak. The reference was to Mr. White, who has accumulated misdemeanor charges from non-violent interference to protect wildlife.
For some City Council members, this inappropriate surveillance of legal protest activity was the last straw. However, the primary reason for pulling the project was money. In the end, the public and the council were convinced the project was a very controversial frill they couldn't afford.
The aquarium expansion project was especially hard fought because of the precedent it would set. There have been no new captive dolphin tanks built in the United States for a decade. Many facilities such as the Great America Amusement Park and Knott's Berry Farm have stopped holding dolphins in captivity during this period. We hope that the idea of taking these highly sentient beings from their homes and families in order to entertain us is now seen by most reasonable people as unacceptable.