Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mayor of Pelham Defends Trips to Marineland

It was revealed this past week that the town of Pelham Ontario is sending children to Marineland through the town's summer camp program.  The program which is administered through the town's Department of Recreation, Culture and Wellness has been promoting the trips via the town's website along with trips to various other captive animal facilities.

Pelham Ontario (population 16,500) is located within the Niagara Region and borders beautiful Short Hills Provincial Park which features plenty of natural wildlife and nature trails.  The Mayor of Pelham is Dave Augustine and he is running for re-election in 2014 under the slogan "Working with you to make Pelham a vibrant, creative, and caring community in Niagara".  

You would think if Mayor Augustine was really interested in making Pelham a more 'caring' community he would be speaking out against the town's promotion of captivity and animal abuse by attempting to get the town to withdraw support for sending kids to a facility such as Marineland but that is not the case.

When asked for a statement about the trips to Marineland which is now internationally known more for its mass animal gravesites and lawsuits rather than its 'performing' whales the Mayor had this to say about the issue:

"I understand that governing authorities (Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) deem the spaces to be liveable.  I do understand from staff that the weeks that contain trips to Marineland and to African Lion Safari are the first to sell out."

Apparently Mayor Augustine sees nothing wrong with the living space of Marineland's last remaining orca Kiska, even if her tiny concrete tank represents less than 1% of her natural habitat in the ocean.  He must not also know about the single tank where as many as 25 Belugas at a time can live together in one small space.  Maybe Mayor Dave has never watched the video of the orca Junior who died prematurely and alone in a windowless dank warehouse in a tank so small and shallow he could barely submerge himself.

This past year the Ontario government announced an overhaul to the OSPCA admitting it had neither the expertise nor the standards in place on which to competently judge the care animals receive at facilities such as Marineland.  Currently there are no laws in place that protect marine mammals in Ontario.  And unlike Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson who just a few weeks ago publicly stated it was time to end cetacean captivity at his city's Aquarium, Mayor Augustine's statement reflected his desire to just not get involved.

Recently many schools have cancelled trips to Marineland in favor of alternative plans for students, some even going so far as to hold screenings of the film Blackfish to show kids the truth about captivity.  Responding to shifting public attitudes, community leaders and lawmakers are waking up to the fact that watching animals languish in tiny cages or tanks or performing circus tricks is no longer an acceptable form of entertainment.  Mayor Augustine does not appear to be one of those forward thinking leaders but in fact one who would rather just look the other way.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31st - On this day in Marineland History...

Three years ago today the body of Paula Millard was found in her home, located at the Green Oaks Trailer Park.  She committed suicide on the day she was to be evicted.  Paula was not overtly religious however she did believe in Karma.  She left a final note written on the walls of her home directed at the landlord and property owner, the president of Marineland John Holer which read:

"A Blessing on John Holer - May you get exactly what you deserve - 10 fold."

Millard and 46 other families many of whom included seniors and people with disabilities were evicted from Greek Oaks by  Marineland owner John Holer who seven years earlier had purchased the park which is located adjacent to Marineland's property.   Holer continued to allow families to buy into the park and build their homes on the site while others made significant investments in their homes.  Marineland unexpectedly served eviction notices to residents in February 2009 saying they wanted to use the land to build maintenance facilities.  Unable to move the permanent structures built on the site, many residents lost their entire homes while continuing to have to pay their full mortgages.

Residents appealed to the city of Niagara Falls for assistance and despite the city having existing legislation in place that could have helped the residents, Niagara Falls City Council decided not to get involved.  Marineland did not offer fair compensation to residents and refused to negotiate with them.  John Holer began driving through the park several times a day harassing residents which resulted in several confrontations and police being summoned.

Residents took Holer & Marineland to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board where they presented key pieces of evidence showing why the eviction should have been dismissed immediately however adjudicators inexplicably sided with Marineland.  Even a year after the evictions as the site sat empty and unused, residents returned to the Tribunal with even more evidence Marineland acted in bad faith and were turned down by adjudicators.   The homes of residents sat abandoned and became the target of arsonists and vandals.  In the fall of 2012 Marineland was ordered by the Niagara Falls Fire Department to secure the park. The abandoned homes were not demolished until 2013.

Despite already owning hundreds of acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the site, Holer claimed he badly needed the 6 acre park so he could build maintenance facilities for Marineland.  Paula Millard felt she had nowhere to go and that her home was all she had.


To this day, Marineland has built nothing on the land where Paula's home once stood.

To learn more about the residents of Green Oaks, visit Go Homeless.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Marineland Implicated in River Contamination


News broke on this week that Ontario's Ministry of the Environment was investigating a pollution complaint of discolored water entering the Welland River, just upstream from Niagara Falls. Red brownish coloured water can be seen emptying into the Welland River from Pell's Creek which concerned several local residents in Chippawa. Pell's Creek runs through Marineland property before exiting into the river and Ministry officials quickly tracked the source coming from the park.

Marineland notified the Ministry that they have been moving rocks for a construction project and a large pile of red rocks which are common in the area have been used for a temporary road for construction vehicles.

Rich Vickers, the Niagara district manager for the Ministry told the Niagara Falls Review that they have taken samples from the water.

“High loads of sediment should not be getting into the water. We've taken samples and we’ll wait and see what the results indicate,” Vickers said.

The Ministry has also asked Marineland to put in place control measures to ensure no further sediment enters the creek.

Local resident Al Oleksiuk told The Review he had never seen a body of water so discolored.

“It’s the worst I've ever seen,” he said, adding it looked like rust crud with a paint-like consistency." Mr. Oleksiuk was so concerned he took his own water sample and is having it tested citing the area is important for water fowl and fish.

Marineland: In Depth visited the site on Saturday March 15th and the discolored water could still be seen entering the river despite earlier reports the water had cleared up.

Marineland has faced investigation by Ontario's Ministry of Environment for numerous infractions, most recently over the illegal burial of thousands of animals in mass graves on the property. Late last year Marineland was granted a permit to resume burying animals.

In 2000 the Ministry ordered Marineland to stop discharging their wastewater into Pell's Creek.

Marineland's most serious environmental offense saw the park convicted and fined $15,000 for running an illegal dump where despite warnings by the Ministry to stop, park staff buried toxic materials on the property.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Blackfish Coming to Western New York

Western New York has always been a key market for Marineland trying to draw in people from across the border during the busy summer tourist season. This is why we are extremely excited to announce there will be a major event screening of the blockbuster documentary film Blackfish in Rochester New York, helping to spread education and awareness about marine mammal captivity to our American friends near Niagara.

The FREE screening will take place at the 1,900 seat Kodak Center for the Performing Arts Saturday May 3rd and will feature 4 stars of the film.  Former Seaworld trainers Samantha Berg, Dr. Jeffrey Ventre, Carol Ray and Dr. John Jett will be in attendance for the screening as well as former Marineland senior trainer Phil Demers, all of whom will be available for a Q&A after the film.  Tickets for a special VIP meet and greet/photo session which will include snacks & refreshments will also be available at the door.

As another season of animal cruelty is drawing closer at Marineland it is so important to get friends and family out to this extremely informative and entertaining event designed to engage everyone on the topic of captivity and hear the personal stories of those involved, most importantly the animals.

WHERE: Kodak Center for the Performing Arts  200 WestRidge Rd.   Rochester New York

WHEN: May 3rd 2014 @ 5:30pm

MORE INFO: Facebook Event Page

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Demonstration Calender: Saturday May 31st 2014

Mark your calenders, the first relevant demonstration of the year at Marineland will be held on Saturday May 31st 2014.  According to organizers, this demonstration is designed to highlight the plight of Kiska, Marineland's lone surviving female orca:

"Since the release of the documentary Blackfish, there has been a huge momentum to help liberate captive orcas across the world from inadequate living conditions at marine parks. Kiska is the last captive orca in Canada, and has been named as the saddest and loneliest in the world.  This event will highlight the issues of marine mammal captivity and will focus on calling for Kiska's release to a sea-pen or more suitable home with other orcas. All are welcome to join!"

For more information on this demonstration visit the organizer's Facebook event page here.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Oppose School Trips to Marineland

You wouldn't know it by the weather we are having in the Niagara region but Spring will soon be on its way.  Locally here in Southern Ontario and Western New York many schools will begin planning their year end trips for students.   In the past Marineland had been a frequent destination of many of these trips however as more people come to understand what the captive display industry is all about many schools have chosen not to send their students to Marineland.

There is after all no educational value in observing marine mammals imprisoned in an environment so far removed from what is natural for them.  Marineland is especially devoid of any educational merit with little information presented to students on site by staff and signage and the park is not involved in any conservation efforts.  Their answer to this is to simply say visitors will automatically gain an appreciation for the animals by watching someone ride around on them and then young people will want to become 'champions for their wild cousins'.

Even though there is a lack of any real education about the animals at Marineland and the outright promotion of captivity and cruelty some schools will still choose to send their students there.  Marineland offers picnic areas, rides and food stands and also gives deep discounts to schools.  Often cash strapped educators pick Marineland because it is an easy and simple outing.

Despite the discounts, the money Marineland makes from the influx of large groups of students visiting each year is significant.  So much so that when news broke in 2012 about what was really happening behind closed doors at Marineland one of the first acts of damage control by owner John Holer was to send out a letter to teachers trying to spin the bad news.  Marineland: In Depth obtained a copy of the letter:

In the carefully crafted letter, Holer wastes no time attacking the thorough  investigation by the Toronto Star newspaper labeling it a 'campaign' to shut the park down.  On the contrary the Star never made such calls and the articles written by reporters Linda Diebel and Liam Casey focused on the concerns of many about the well being of animals at the park.

In the letter Marineland owner John Holer attempts to smear the reputation of two former employees who blew the whistle on animal abuse at the park.  The letter fails to mention they are just  two of (now) SIXTEEN former employees who have risked severe legal consequences to step forward to talk about what they witnessed during their time employed by Marineland. 

Holer notes Marineland 'passed' inspections conducted by CAZA which is a zoo & aquarium industry funded organization that in its history has only ever revoked accreditation of one of its members (also because of animal abuse) only to give it back.  The letter boasts the OSPCA found no evidence of any problems at the facility even though at the time the letter was sent the OSPCA investigation wasn't even completed.  The OSPCA actually did place several orders on Marineland and the Provincial government was also forced to admit the OSPCA didn't even have the  resources in place to properly and thoroughly investigate how Marineland cares for its marine mammals.  Holer wraps up the letter accusing anyone against zoos and aquariums of being a radical bully and that he will fight to get Marineland's reputation back.

Marineland's true reputation is well documented on this website and we invite you to have a look through the news archive, animal death tallies and articles featured about John Holer himself.  We think it'll give you a clear picture of why Marineland's reputation among real scientists and biologists who aren't on aquarium payrolls, is actually one of the worst in the world.

If your school or your child's school is planning on a visit to Marineland take action immediately.  Call the teacher, the principal and the school board to let them know a trip to Marineland is unacceptable.  Write emails and use the school's own social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc) to express outrage over any plan to send students to a captive display facility with no educational value.  You can also organize with other students and parents to encourage them to do the same and even reach out to your local media to express your thoughts.  There are plenty of alternatives for a year end trip, depending on your area be sure to offer suggestions.

Most importantly if you are a parent, talk to your children and don't be afraid to discuss the problems of marine mammal captivity with them.  Give them the facts.  Kids are smart, they get it.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pro Marineland Candidate Joyce Morocco Soundly Defeated in Byelection

Ontario Liberal Party candidate Joyce Morocco was thumped in the Niagara Falls byelection on Thursday losing the riding to NDP candidate Wayne Gates and coming in third behind perennial PC candidate Bart Maves.  Newcomer Green Party candidate Clarke Bitter placed fourth.

Several key issues in the Niagara area were the main focal points of the campaign including high unemployment, health care and hydro rates however Marineland still managed to find its way into the conversation on several occasions.

Candidates Bart Maves, Wayne Gates & Clark Bitter stated they supported the employment Marineland creates in the area with Clarke Bitter the only candidate willing to go on record as someone who does not support the captivity of marine mammals. Of the four main candidates in the byelection it was Morocco who held the most baggage on the issue and chose to make further statements endorsing the park.

As Niagara Falls City Councillor she voted twice to hand over public land to Marineland that for many years had been used by members of the public to voice their opposition to the facility.  During the campaign she emphatically stated her support for the park because according to Morocco, her friend was employed there as a veterinarian and she trusted her opinion.  Morocco has never met with any of the 16 former employees who have stated on the record they witnessed abuse and neglect at the park.  During a live radio debate she also incorrectly stated she believed oversight of animal care at Marineland was a federal responsibility.  Morocco's own party leader, current Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also faced questions from local media about Marineland during a campaign stop in Niagara and the Liberals' abysmal record on various animal protection issues was the target of a radio & print advertising campaign during the election.

Morocco will return to her position on Niagara Falls City Council.

Unofficial results:
Wayne Gates (NDP) 39.4%
Votes: 14526

Bart Maves (PC) 36.8%
Votes: 13564

Joyce Morocco (Liberal) 19.4%
Votes: 7143

Clarke Bitter (Green) 2.7%
Votes: 1006