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Mystic Aquarium's priority is tourism dollars, not sea animals

In the May 21 issue, former Mystic Aquarium public relations director Peter Glankoff, now a resident of New Mexico, used a letter to the editor to praise the accomplishments of his highly paid, $500,000 per year former boss, CEO Dr. Stephen M. Coan, president and CEO of the aquarium, who has said, “Animal welfare has always been at the forefront of what we do here at Mystic Aquarium.”


Meanwhile, Glankoff asserts that challenging Coan’s uber-high pay is “petty.”

Zoos and aquaria remove animals from their natural environments and display them in order to sell tickets. Due to inadequate space, food, and veterinary care, these animals can suffer from debilitating health problems. Most die prematurely. Paid PR mouthpiece Glankoff and highly paid Mystic Aquarium officials such as Coan should be reminded that in 2016 a young adult male beluga named Miki died while in their care. Medical complications were cited.

Miki died while on display at Mystic Aquarium for just several months, on loan from The Shedd Aquarium of Chicago. What really happened to this poor creature on Coan’s watch?

Mystic Aquarium claims that the transfer of whales from Canada is about research. However, as PETA points out, not only does being held in captivity cause animals extreme mental stress, it’s also physically damaging. The chlorine and copper sulfate used to keep tanks clear have caused dolphins’ skin to peel and may cause dolphin and seal blindness. Pity their poor cousins, the belugas, who are held captive at Mystic Aquarium in what to them is little more than a giant bathtub.

Animal Welfare Institute and other animal advocates point out that the recent importation from Canada could be too much stress, possibly fatal, for the beluga whales and that it would have made more sense for the scientists to come to the animals. Instead, Coan had them shipped away.

Note that Mystic Aquarium and its highly paid director, Coan, received major support from big-business gambling and entertainment enterprises such as The Coca-Cola Company, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Resorts World Sentosa, and weapons maker United Technologies Corporation. Coan serves on the Connecticut Commission on Tourism and the Governor’s Advisory Council on Tourism, both of which promote the circus-like display in Connecticut of hapless and helpless wild animals at Mystic Aquarium.

Why is this allowed?

And who stands up for Coan. His “retired” PR flack, and still a paid publicity consultant, Mr. Glankoff, whose background includes marketing promotion in “Sin City” Las Vegas, a short-term stint at the Bronx Zoo, before his arrival at Mystic Seaport and later the Mystic Aquarium. He retired to New Mexico with a paid consulting contract from the aquarium.

Could Stephen Coan have found anyone with less integrity to sing his questionable praises than Peter Glankoff?

Dr. Richard Parker is a former professor of Applied Zoological Sciences at The Earls Institute of Animal Psychology in Montreal, Canada, and is now retired.



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