GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - As the construction of the Mississippi Aquarium continues, some, like Elaine Adair, say the idea this aquarium represents isn't progressive at all. Rather, it's regressive.
"We should learn from other aquariums, if it is cost prohibitive - if people are not interested - why put our money, waste our taxpayer money, in a risky venture that may not work," said Adair, an animal activist.
Adair says she isn't as opposed to the aquarium as much as she is against using dolphins in the venture. She believes it is time to change attitudes about enjoying and studying animals in captivity.
She stated, "I think this is a message we need to send to the children. You really shouldn't need to go to a facility to watch something...a caged animal. You really would like to encourage them to be out in the environment. If they're spending their money, spend it on that."
Animal rights groups are comparing aquariums like this one to circuses, describing them as outdated forms of entertainment. Alternatively, aquarium officials are saying this represents education and research for the future.
David Kimmel, President and CEO of Mississippi Aquarium noted, "Our dolphins are really sentinels of the sea out there. So, we intend to study their behavior, study their welfare, study every aspect of it in our aquarium. Because it's only through the knowledge of these studies that we're going to be able to improve and to understand what's going on out in the Gulf."
Kimmel says the four Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins are not from the wild, but from facilities accredited by professionals and conservationists. He says that this kind of facility will provide a deeper understanding of how to project the animals.
"I think it's important that our visitors have an opportunity to connect with the animals. If there's no connection, nobody cares, and if you don't care, you're not going to do anything about it," he explained.