Millions in Federal Taxpayer Funds Going to #Mississippi “Dolphin Pimp”

By Sandy McElhaney, Washington DC

Some call it “discretionary” spending – others call it “pork” – either way it is your hard earned tax dollars paying for a range of Congressional whims including beef improvement research in Texas, a tea pot museum in North Carolina, and yes, a “state of the art” dolphinarium for the citizens of Mississippi.

According to Citizens Against Government Waste, a whopping $16.5 billion went to Congressional pet projects in 2010.  The group’s 2010 Congressional Pig Book Summary documents the “most egregious and blatant examples of pork”.  Leading the pack in discretionary spending is Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran.  In Fiscal Year 2010, Cochran earmarked 27 projects to the tune of $44,400,000.  Of that sum, $1,000,000 went to the Center for Marine Education and Research-Ocean Expo-Learning Center at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

The $75 million Ocean Expo is the brain child of Moby Solangi. Richard O’Barry, star of the Academy award winning documentary, The Cove, has  characterized Solangi as a “Dolphin Pimp”.  Said O’Barry, “Solangi is one of the world’s biggest traffickers in captive dolphins, and his track record is a litany of violent dolphin captures and exploitation. “

Solangi earned his reputation as the head of Marine Life Oceanarium and Marine Animal Productions in Gulfport, MS.  Marine Animal Productions was a dolphin lending program.  The Blog, A Family Standing Up for What They Believe In, describes Marine Animal Productions:

BETWEEN 1956-1989 Moby Solangi captured over 200 dolphins in the Mississippi Sound. These animals were sold to Sea Circuses, amusement parks, the US Navy, and other dolphin facilities around the country. Solangi also rented out dolphins to zoos around the country. Zoos that rented out these dolphins would pay a set price every month and the package would include a dolphin and sea lion show, food, supplies, veterinarian supervision, and a trainer. If a animal got sick or died, Marine Animal Productions (MAP), the company which Moby Solangi Co-founded in 1965, would simply send a replacement animal. The Oklahoma City Zoo was one of the many zoos that rented dolphins.  

Solangi’s Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, MS, was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina.  Several animals were left at the facility to ride out the storm.  A harbor seal was never found and five sea lions perished.  Eight dolphins were literally swept out to sea by a 40 foot wall of water.  They were found 12 days later in the nearby Gulf, where Solangi’s crew eventually re-captured them.  He has since been touted as a hero for rescuing the very same animals he left behind in the Category 5 hurricane.

Solangi now serves as President and Executive Director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport, MS.  IMMS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established for the purposes of “public education, conservation, and research on marine mammals in the wild and under human care.”  Solangi and IMMS are documented as longtime financial supporters of Senator Cochran’s political campaigns.  In turn, Cochran has secured millions in appropriations to help build Ocean Expo.  In addition to the $1 million earmark, Cochran was also instrumental in helping IMMS obtain a $10 million federal grant to help build the facility.  Is one hand washing the other?  Should a “dolphin pimp” with a track-record of marine mammal mismanagement be handed millions of tax payer dollars to support captivity?  You decide.

Advocates have created a facebook page Citizens Against Ocean Expo.

Advocates have created a petition to Halt the Building of Ocean Expo.

Issues regarding the ethics of Congressional appropriations for the facility can be directed to the United States Senate Ethics Committee.

Chasity Reed and Stephen Hambrick contributed to this report.

Source: Examiner

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