Mitch Cayirylys is a 17 year old student from Coffs Harbour. He recently made a petition asking local schools to stop running excursions to the controversial marine park, Dolphin Marine Magic. Mitch collected close to 100 signatures from students, all demanding their schools stop supporting the practice of dolphin captivity – an incredible achievement! He’s penned a short blog article, explaining how he became involved in animal welfare and dolphin advocacy.
My name is Mitchell Cayirylys, I’m 17 years old, I attend Coffs Harbour Senior college and I was born and raised in Coffs Harbour. Like many other people in the Coffs Harbour area and surrounds I used to be somewhat blind and/or uneducated on the horrors hiding behind the façade of Dolphin Marine Magic (formerly ‘The Pet Porpoise Pool’). I attended shows, laughed at the dolphins tricks and marveled at the fact that I was able to see these magnificent animals so close. Little did I know that when our fun ends, their horror begins.
I first started becoming interested in the environment and animal welfare at the age of 14 when I started scuba diving and seeing how magnificent these creatures are in their natural habitat. Three years on and I have witnessed first hand the horrors hidden behind the corporate front of dolphinariums. I started to do some research into marine parks and found they are not what they seem. For example, I found out dolphins swim up to 128km per day, but at dolphinariums they are held in tiny chlorinated tanks less that 1% of this area.
I was also horrified when, upon further investigation, I found out that a dolphinarium that was so close to home (Dolphin Marine Magic) wasn’t all it seemed to be. I learned it has chlorinated tanks that aren’t even up to the required standards, and prohibit the use of sonar – effectively blinding the dolphins.
However, the real change of heart came when Jordan from ‘Australia for Dolphins’ gave a talk at my school. I decided to become involved in the activism side of things and attend the protest at Dolphin Marine Magic.
Leading up to the protest it became apparent that the community was divided on the issue, with the ‘older’ generation opposing the idea – claiming the business had been around for years and activist groups shouldn’t interfere. The ‘younger’ generation were more open to the idea that there needed to be change. They realised that, yes, this business has been around for years and it was opened with the intentions of helping injured dolphins, rehabilitating them and then releasing them. However times change and unfortunately today the park focuses more on commercial dolphin entertainment than rescuing wild dolphins.
Coffs Harbour is a small community where everybody knows everybody, so it can be hard to incite change when some people have an ‘it’s how we have always done it’ mentality. When I ask people “Why do these dolphins need to be kept in captivity?” I am often met with the answer: “It’s a local business that provides jobs”, or “They help the dolphins”. I think a lot of people in the area don’t know there is an option that can keep jobs in the region while providing a more humane alternative to captivity: a sea-pen sanctuary. We need to spread this message further to inspire a change of heart in the Coffs Harbour community.