Southend’s sea life centre, Sea Life Adventure, has been providing visitors of all ages with educational fun and enjoyment for over two decades now since they first opened in 1993, as part of a chain of Sea Life Centres around the country. But at what expense?

On Sunday 28th June 2015, a group of local animal welfare defenders gathered at Sea Life Adventure to protest against the captivity of marine animals and the planned expansion of the sea life centre, which could see the arrival of seals, penguins and crocodiles. The planned expansion will extend the sea life centre over the existing car park and old crazy golf course to accommodate its newest attractions that, according to the Stockvale Group, will hopefully boost visitor numbers by a third.

For a while, the expansion plans went on hold (due to a disagreement over the commercial rent), but council leader Ron Woodley stated at the time that they will “continue to support the Sealife Adventure’s enhancements, if mutually acceptable terms can be agreed”. Last month it was announced that Stockvale Group are coming to an agreement over the rent of the council land (roughly half the size of a football pitch) and Marc Miller, Stockvale managing director, has said: “We are optimistic an agreement is moving forward, however the penguins haven’t got their bags packed just yet.”

But these ambitious plans have left many questioning whether there will even be sufficient space to house these creatures comfortably, and whether the extension will compromise the welfare of the creatures in order to bring in more visitors. Members of Southend Animal Aid, Green Action Group and Essex Animal Defenders appeared at the sea life centre demonstration last month to stand up against the captivity of Southend sea life centre’s inhabitants for commercial benefit, and against the animal suffering that would potentially result from the inadequate enclosures in the proposed expansion.

Julie Greenwood, a spokesperson for the group has stated:

“We believe that wild animals belong in their natural habitat and they should be protected and conserved there not to be taken out of the Wild for people to stare at for a few moments. There is little conservation benefit to holding animals captive for their lifetime in zoos and aquariums. Subjecting animals to a lifetime in a tank or enclosure so that people can spend a few hours of a weekend looking at them while the business profits, is unacceptable. The Essex coastline is teaming with wildlife and those people with an interest in seeing animals and learning about nature should really take advantage of the great outdoors. Seeing wild animals in impoverished man-made conditions does nothing for us, and nothing for the animals.”

Penguins, for example, live in thriving communities in the wild – colonies, in fact. They are social animals and have a tendency to do everything in large groups. Some penguin colonies have a population well in the millions. There’s just no way to replicate that in such a small space, without getting déjà vu of that really depressing scene of Happy Feet. (You know the one… Where Mumble has been put into confinement for a long period of time, as he gradually succumbs to madness and stares off into the wall that’s painted to look like his natural habitat.)

Photos from the event can be seen below, borrowed from the Facebook event page where you can find more:

Sea Life Adventure Protest

Sea Life Adventure Protest