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uShaka Marine World
As uShaka Marine World prepares to frighten inhabitants and visitors alike at its upcoming Halloween Dance Party, billed as ‘Club 6 Feet Under’, and described on its website as:
“A truly ghoulish and ghostly party at uShaka Marine World’s aquarium, on Friday, October 26th from 8pm until midnight - the bewitching ghostly hour. It will be a night that takes the usual Halloween fun, and adds a whole lot more to it! From costumes, to music, to a shipwreck, where else can you party with your friends, dressed up as your scariest character, surrounded by sea life? For true Halloween lovers and party people, you get to party six feet under in the heart of the phantom ship and Africa’s largest aquarium, amongst some truly scary Halloween characters. For one night only, the aquarium will be transformed celebrating Halloween, complete with dance music, DJ’s and fully stocked cash bars. Come costumed and ready to party. The theme this year is ghosts and ghouls!”
It is up to the public to (again) remind uShaka that a self-proclaimed marine sanctuary is not a suitable party venue.
With global sentiment turning against the captivity industry after documentaries such as ‘The Cove’ and ‘Blackfish’ exposed the inherent cruelty of captivity, uShaka has had to seek other sources of revenue, at the detriment of the animals in its care, as ticket sales continue to plummet. Turning a captive animal facility into a nightclub is, however, unacceptable.
As uShaka is owned by the City of Durban, and cost up to R700 million to build, and millions more on upkeep, uShaka is obliged to adhere to the principles of cooperative and participatory governance outlined in the Municipal Systems Act (2000). The welfare of the marine life in the park falls under the stewardship of the South African Association of Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) which is a service provider to the municipality and is, as such, obligated to adhere to the same principles.
If uShaka chooses to ignore the concerns of the taxpayer, it will be nothing short of a failure of good governance, and the City of Durban must be held accountable.
Numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of external, man-made, stimuli on captive marine animals.
For instance, we know that many marine animals rely on sound for survival and depend on unique adaptations that enable them to communicate, protect themselves, locate food, navigate underwater, and/or understand their environment. They may both produce sounds and listen to the sounds around them.
While advances continue to be made in understanding the effects of man-made sound on marine mammals, the sheer diversity of fish and invertebrates has made the task of understanding the effects on these species a much more onerous task. Much remains to be learned about the hearing or sound-producing capabilities of fish and invertebrates, let alone how they respond to, and are potentially affected by man-made sounds.
Studies have shown that sound exposure can affect marine life through injury to inner ear sensory tissues, reduction in hearing sensitivity, and masking (the reduction in the detectability of a signal of interest due to the presence of another sound, which is usually noise). Most impacts, except the most severe exposures, do not result in immediate mortality but may lead to delayed mortality if injuries affect vital functions.
Animals at higher hydrostatic pressures (at greater depths) may be less susceptible to injury than those at lower hydrostatic pressure, as is the case in captivity where marine life are unable to dive or escape their surroundings.
At present, very little is known about the response of invertebrates to sound exposure and it is not possible to specify levels deemed safe.
Experiments with goldfish have shown that they are capable of auditory scene analysis (the process by which the auditory system organises sound into individual, perceptually segregated streams according to their likely sources). It is believed that other fish may also be capable of auditory scene analysis.
Based on observations of fish avoidance of ocean vessels, including fishery research vessels, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recommended that special effort is made to make research vessels quieter; for example, that research vessel noise shall not exceed 30 decibels. Given that at similar events at uShaka Marine World, sound levels were limited to 95 decibels, we must stress the fact that events of this nature do, undoubtedly, pose a risk to the animals in uShaka’s care.
The effects of strobe lights on marine animals have not been adequately researched and it is irresponsible of a marine sanctuary to even consider exposing the animals in its care to potential harm.
The fact that uShaka decided to promote its “club night” during National Marine Week smacks of hypocrisy, as an event such as this, aimed at alcohol-consuming party-goers, is in stark contradiction with uShaka’s ethos of promoting education and conservation through captivity.
Posted: 10 October 2018 (Updated: 19 October 2018)