April 11, 2011
Open Letter & PETITION
TO: President Michael Osborn, President-Elect Shelly Wood, and the Board of Directors, IMATA – International Marine Animal Trainers Association
CC: President Claudia Gili, European Association for Aquatic Mammals (EAAM)
FROM: The Selkie Society, SaveLolita.com, Earthrace Conservation, and a growing coalition of marine conservation, animal welfare, and grass-roots community groups and all signers of the attached petition.
Since 1972, the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA) has worked hard to become a professionally recognized and respected organization and to be included in the marine conservation community. For example, in 1984, IMATA’s Legislation, Information and Policy Committee wrote and published a report entitled, “Protect Our Image” to aid trainers in presenting themselves in a professional and knowledgeable manner after a series of successful public protests about inhumane, marine mammal captivity. Then, in 1987, IMATA sent a delegation to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). And, for the past 26 years IMATA has sent an NGO representative to yearly International Whaling Commission meetings.
However, IMATA’s reputation and credibility is, again, threatened by its failure to sufficiently distance itself and its membership from the most inhumane sectors of the marine mammal capture and trade industry. IMATA’s public statement condemning drive fisheries and well-publicized dolphin slaughters is insufficient in the view of the animal welfare and marine conservation communities.
IMATA, as the voice and representative organization of ‘professional marine animal trainers’ must adopt and enforce codes, by-laws and guidelines into its very structure and corporate culture that eliminate any possible association with wild-catch marine animal operations that result in the death of the targeted species. Doing so, in cooperation with its membership, provides IMATA with an opportunity to become an industry leader in demanding higher standards and necessary transparency in marine animal capture and care.
IMATA states that it is “dedicated to providing and advancing the most professional, effective, and humane care of marine animals in all habitats”; for that goal to be fulfilled, the organization and its membership must, now, directly address the conflict between caring for specific marine animals, at specific facilities, while turning a blind eye to how, where, and under what conditions they were acquired. Until IMATA addresses the need for its membership to be aware of these specifics and not affiliate with any questionable sourcing or retention of animals, the terms ‘marine mammal trainer’ and ‘IMATA member’ will be tainted as less than ‘professional’ and continually scrutinized regarding these issues.
For an example of the kind of scrutiny that is being applied now to the dolphin trade, please see the article entitled, “Wild Dolphins Shipped to China from Japan — The Taiji Six”. Please consider IMATA’s current and future role in your industry as the question of sourcing and capture method of marine animals continues to come to light and grab the public attention.
We suggest the following:
1. Add an amendment to the IMATA ‘Code of Ethics’ specifically stating that no trainer, as a member-in-good-standing, will work at or support any facility, company, or operation that keeps, trades, transports or supports the capture and sale of marine mammals from any drive hunt or catch-and-kill operation.
2. Include the above in the IMATA “Guidelines for Animal Training Standards” as applied to the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.
3. Adopt a by-law denying or revoking IMATA Accreditation to any member-in-good-standing found to have violated either of the above; and revoke membership of any trainer found in violation of the same.
4. Deny representation in any IMATA publication or at any official event to any member-in-good-standing or organization, group, or company that does not adhere to the complete and amended ‘Code of Ethics’ and ‘Guidelines’ as described above.
We are available to help you find workable solutions and implement them. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Our petition can be found at: The Petition Site, IMATA Code of Ethics – Amend for NO Dolphin Slaughter/Capture. We will keep it open for the next five months, and present it to you at your next association conference, in Miami.
The Selkie Society