A Sea Of Controversy


December 30, 1990|By Elizabeth Large

Four and a half years ago the magazine published a story by Patrick McGuire looking back at the National Aquarium's first five years of existence: how successful it had been and why. There was no public furor over the issue of the inhabitants' "rights" at that point. Patrick remembers talking to Nick Brown, the aquarium's executive director -- a major player in this week's cover story -- about plans to build a marine mammal pavilion. Mr. Brown said clearly at the time that it wouldn't be another Sea World, with dolphin "shows," and Patrick remembers thinking that sounded reasonable and good.

As I write this, the new pavilion is scheduled to open the week before this issue appears, on Dec. 26. Patrick very much wanted to write a story marking the event because he got so interested in the aquarium last time round. "But the time has come," he says, "to do more than just discuss how neat the aquarium is." He decided to look at the philosophical issue of captivity, which -- he argued convincingly when we discussed the story -- is the major public issue now.

"The aquarium," he says, "is state-of-the-art in terms of animal care and so on; there's no question of that. The issue is whether large sea mammals should be captured at all. That was the issue I wanted people to address, and I thought they advanced arguments pretty well on both sides. Everybody got their best shot in."

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