Controversy Stirs Over Marlins' Plans to Use Fish Aquarium as New Park Backstop
Front row seats at a Miami Marlins' home game might sound like good news if you're a fan, but it's likely a nightmare if you happen to be a fish.
The new Marlins' Stadium backstop is currently set to be a fully functioning aquarium. That means that the only thing standing between fans and a wild 100 mph fastball is, well, a thick layer of aquarium glass and about a hundred or so terrified fish.
Tank designers have assured fans that there's little chance of the aquarium glass shattering, but it's not the well being of Marlins' fans that has many animal rights activists crying foul. Even if the fish manage to stay wet, the trauma of consistently being pelted by baseballs-- not to mention the ambient stadium noise created by thousands of cheering fans-- is likely to be incredibly stressful for the animals.
"I can tell you even if the glass doesn't shatter, [stadium noise is] going to cause a tremendous vibration and disturb and upset the fish," said Animal Rights Foundation of Florida spokesman Don Anthony to the local press. "Why put animals in a place like that, in a place where animals don't belong? Fish are not a decoration."
It's also not really all that clear how much force the aquarium glass can withstand before busting. According to Mat Roy, president of the company that manufactured the tanks, they were tested by having Marlins' first baseman Gaby Sanchez hurl baseballs at them. The tanks didn't crack, but Sanchez was only clocked at 84 mph, and the test was more of a publicity stunt than anything else.
Roy insists, though, that sufficient precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of the fish. For instance, the tanks are carefully temperature-controlled, and they have been suspended on a flexible material called neoprene which acts as an additional shock absorber.
Anthony isn't convinced. "No matter how many shock absorbers they build into the system, if there are thousands of fans screaming and jumping during a sporting event it's going to affect the fish in there," he said.
To see exactly how fish might respond, Marlins Executive VP for Ballpark Development Claude Delorme recently set up a pitching machine to launch baseballs at the tank with fish inside, to observe their reaction.
"You would see a small reaction — they would move because they would sense something in that area," Delorme said.
"We've taken every precaution," Roy added. "All that we can do is show that over the test of time, these animals are doing just fine."
Still, Delorme's judgment of what constitutes a "small" reaction isn't likely to placate Anthony and other activists. After all, even small reactions, when multiplied over the course of a baseball game, let alone a full season of games and special events, can lead to a tortuous built-up of stress.
You can see what the aquarium tanks look like, full with fish, in the video below taken by Herald sports reporter Manny Navarro, and judge for yourself whether a backstop is an appropriate place for a fish tank.