Posted by Debby and Hubert Yoder, ALTANTA, GA -- For a city that conference-goers in particular love to hate, the Georgia Aquarium offers a unique sanctuary of sorts. Opened in 2005, the aquarium is the world's largest. From the moment you walk through its doors you are transported to a magical place. The facility is truly awe-inspiring. There are creatures who live beneath the sea in places most of us will never visit with colors so vibrant and unusual they seem to have escaped from Avatar.
Recently, however, the aquarium has become embroiled in controversy for its attempt to purchase 18 Beluga whales that were captured in the wild off the coast of Russia. This practice was banned 40 years ago in a Save the Whales campaign as populations dwindled from over-fishing. Aquarium officials have sought special permission to make this purchase due to the need to expand the genetic line for whales in captivity. Attempts at breeding and sustaining the Beluga population have not progressed as hoped and critics say it's because Beluga whales are especially sensitive and unhappy in captivity.
The aquarium's Beluga whale habitat has recently undergone renovation to allow more access to the whales during private diving adventures. This may be in anticipation of an increased population or a move to align them with the performing dolphins. Whatever the intent, it seems the aquarium has shifted its focus. When Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus announced his plans to build this facility, he expressed a desire to include conservation efforts as a primary part of the aquarium. Now it faces criticism for the number of late night, private events it hosts, as well as the attempts to capture animals in the wild.
Undoubtedly, the aquarium is an amazing place. And seeing all the magnificent creatures is incredible. Clearly they are all well taken care of. But does knowing that they could have lived their lives in the wild and that they are increasingly subjected to private events for Atlanta's wealthy tarnish the experience?
Debby Yoder is a Contributor to Social Shutter as well as a student at Georgia State University majoring in Sociology. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hubert Yoder is Debby's father and retired after working in information systems at McDonnell Douglas, EDS, and IBM. Photography is now his work and hobby. He can be contacted at email@example.com.