Stop The Austin Aquarium! Come to the Rally!

A couple of weeks ago I was contemplating the vegan stance on aquariums after a trip to Monterrey California.  I only recently learned about the bay at of Monterrey and how it is full of so much marine life including blue, grey, humpback, and killer whales that people refer to it as the Serengeti of the sea. Or that’s what I read anyway, I certainly didn’t hear anyone call it that! As I researched more I learned that the bay used to be a disaster. First fur hunters came and killed all the baby sea otters which lead to the sea urchins multiplying rapidly and ate all the kelp. Hunters came through and killed the larger marine animals. With no predators the sardines flourished. Tons of canneries moved in overfishing the sardines and dumping their refuse and fish guts until all that was left was a bunch of the muck of  a destroyed eco-system and one of the most polluted places on the Pacific coasts.  Then, local activists started to turn things around. Through the  MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) they were able to learn how to help. The funding of visitors to the aquarium led to the ability to completely transform the bay from a wasteland to wonderland where I recently got to see 10 humpback whales jumping for joy.

So I started to think a lot about the vegan stance after this trip. Abolitionist vegans believe that you should never exploit animals but putting them in a cage and I can certainly see that point. But I love seeing animals. Sticking my face underwater and seeing corals filled with fish and sea turtles gracefully lumbering by is maybe my favorite activity on this planet. Watching whales and dolphins frolic in the open sea is as close as I will come to a religious epiphany. A humanist epiphany! So if aquariums and zoos can protect the animals that I love maybe I do want to support them.

But of course that isn’t the typical story. As usual in our society there is more often a money grubbing dark side. After reading all about what good can come out of aquariums I am deeply saddened to learn about the plans to build an Austin Aquarium. This is no research institution. In fact, their educational partners have pulled out after the controversy around the Covino family came to light here in Austin. These people already have a couple of for-profit aquariums and the one in Portland has been under fire ever since The Oregonian uncovered a death log that showed all the ways animals had been killed at the aquarium.  The animals died while the aquarium was operating without a veterinarian since the vet had left. The Oregonian reported

“The exotic animals veterinarian who left in February, Mike Corcoran, blames the animal deaths on a variety of cost-cutting measures, particularly improper quarantine procedures.

“I feel those animals were subject to undue pain and suffering to save money,” he told the Oregonian.”

Since the family has been working on the Austin Aquarium their have been numerous code violations. Culture Map has done a great job reporting and now even PETA has gotten involved.  Yesterday the Chronicle’s Jordan Smith wrote a very thorough piece that I highly recommend.

Local activists have already formed a boycot group and Ernest Samudio of Action for Animals is mobilizing a protest for this weekend to stop the aquarium. Here is what he says:

You’ve read the bad press about the planned Austin Aquarium. They sound like criminals. They don’t care about animals, they don’t respect the law. Let’s stop them!

Here’s what we know about Vince and Ammon Covino, owner’s of the planned aquarium, so far.

– In a 3-month period this spring, 200 aquatic species died at their Oregon aquarium (The Oregonian, Aug. 19, 2013)
– Ammon was indicted in Florida under federal law in November 2012, for illegally obtaining aquatic species for their aquariums in Oregon and Idaho.
– While out on bond for the above charge, Ammon attempted to illegally purchase 4 nurse sharks from Florida, in violation of state and federal law.
– The former vet at their Oregon aquarium has spoken out against the brother’s treatment of their aquatic species.
– Neither of the brother’s two aquariums in Boise, Idaho and Portland, Oregon are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
– The Covino Brothers have started construction on their aquarium in Austin despite having no building permits from the city’s Planning and Development Review Department. (No construction of any kind is allowed without building permits from the city.)
– The Covino Brothers are storing aquatic species at their proposed Austin Aquarium despite having no permits to do so.
– Officials with Austin’s Code Compliance office have issued two notices of violation to the Covino Brothers for failing to have occupancy permits at their proposed aquarium.
– The aquariums website states that the facility will have sea otters and sea turtles, both species protected by federal law but guess what? They have no permits for these animals.
– The Covino Brothers have no federal license to exhibit the one lone kinkajou they have, a violation of federal law.

There is no evidence that the Covino Brothers will responsibly care for all or any of the aquatic animals at their proposed aquarium. There is no evidence that the Covino Brothers will follow any of the state and federal laws required obtain or care for any of their animals. There is no evidence that the Covino Brothers will follow city laws required to safely and legally open their aquarium. Let’s stop them before they kill more animals. And, let’s send a strong message that Austin will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and criminal activity.

We will have signs available at the rally but you may bring your own. Please keep them simple (like billboards) and with BIG BOLD LETTERS.

So please join the rally this Saturday! The animals need your help. Places like this are what happens when people exploit animals for profit and together we can stop them. It’s this Saturday, from noon to 1:30 at 13,530 N Highway 183. And please invite your friends!



5 thoughts on “Stop The Austin Aquarium! Come to the Rally!

  1. windycityvegan

    Hey LS, thanks for taking the time to mention that not all aquariums are created equal! I’m not an abolitionist vegan, but before I had my daughter I was wont to make blanket statements and generalized assumptions because it was easier than taking the time to examine something closely. Now that I’m raising a little vegan of my own, I’m much more aware of blanket statements, half-truths and unexamined opinions and over-examine pretty much everything. Even when an organization/zoo/aquarium/whatever is blatantly putting their needs above the health and wellbeing of the animals they are responsible for in the first place, it’s good to have the facts on your side instead of blindly protesting. So, thanks for taking the time to post all of these links and information in your post.

    I don’t live close enough to join your protest rally, but I hope it goes well!

    1. lazysmurf Post author

      Thanks so much for your comment! It is a complicated world we live in. I was wondering about the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and if they still have dolphin shows and what not when I was thinking about this too.

  2. michellini

    Are you in favor of Monterey Aquarium. I know someone that volunteers there and does a lot for the oceanlife around them. Not all aquariums do this

    1. lazysmurf Post author

      I am I think it’s pretty amazing, I was trying to make the point that some aquariums are great but this one needs to be stopped.

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