Marine Mammals Are Still Suffering in Captivity, But There’s Still Hope for Change

Conservationists and animal advocates have been working for decades to bring an end to keeping marine mammals in captivity, and while there’s still a way to go towards bringing this industry to an end globally, things are finally shifting in the right direction in the West and this cause is no longer as fringe as it once was.

At least, that’s the conclusion of a new, and rather massive, scientific report just released by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and World Animal Protection (WAP) that highlights the numerous problems with keeping marine mammals captive.

“Marine mammals simply cannot thrive in captivity,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, the report’s lead author and AWI’s marine mammal scientist. “Almost all marine mammal species are wide-ranging predators and the best we can provide for them are barren concrete boxes or small sea pen corrals.”

The 156-page report, The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity, delves into a myriad of problems around keeping marine mammals in captivity that range from the trauma and harm live captures cause both individuals and wild populations, to behavioral and physical problems captivity causes and high mortality rates. Possibly one of the most important points made is that captivity does not support education or conservation – which is one of the main arguments the industry uses to keep people coming back.

Supporters continue to argue that we need to keep marine mammals in captivity because it makes them accessible to the public and offers educational opportunities, but there’s nothing educational about keeping these far ranging, intelligent and social animals in artificial environments and forcing them to perform ridiculous and uncomfortable tricks — and keeping them captive isn’t doing anything for conservation.

According to the report, less than 5 to 10 percent of zoos, dolphinaria and aquaria are actually involved in any substantial conservation programs supporting wild marine mammals, or those in captivity, and the money being spent on these programs is just a fraction of the income generated by these facilities, which is often less than one percent.

Still, while there are many factors to consider, as the report concludes, “To the marine mammals, the experience of captivity is not a set of aspects that can be perceived separately. Instead, it is a whole, inescapable life.”

Although things are certainly changing for the better in the West, thanks in large part to a number of troubling incidents and documentaries including The Cove and Blackfish, which have brought international attention to the plight of captive marine mammals, live captures continue, in countries including Russia and Japan, and the demand in China is unfortunately growing. Still, there’s hope that things will continue to change and one day the tanks will be empty.

The report was released this week at the ITB Berlin conference in Germany, which is one of the world’s largest travel events, in the hope that it will encourage the tourism industry to rethink its role in promoting facilities that keep marine mammals in captivity, which continues to drive demand.

“A lifetime in captivity for marine mammals such as dolphins is so contrary to their natural environment—it is simply no life at all,” said Nick Stewart, global head of the campaign on captive wildlife tourism at World Animal Protection. “Tourists and the global travel industry provide demand for existing and new captive marine mammal facilities, which is why we have chosen to launch the report at one of the world’s biggest travel shows. The arguments and evidence of suffering are here in plain language for travel companies to see.”

Hopefully the evidence presented in this report will help change even more minds about keeping marine mammals in captivity, and lead to more facilities phasing out their exhibits.

Photo credit: Getty Images

46 comments

Michael Friedmann
Michael F7 days ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Gino C
Gino C7 days ago

signed, of course

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Celine Russo
Celine R8 days ago

There should just be sanctuaries and sightseeing in nature.

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Mona P
Mona Pietsch9 days ago

Petition signed

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Coo R
Coo R9 days ago

No more captivity for these animals

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Shae Lee
Shae Lee10 days ago

Thanks for sharing!

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Ruth S
Ruth S10 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S10 days ago

Thanks.

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Michael F
Michael F11 days ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Terri S
Terri S11 days ago

Let's keep fighting until they're all free!!!!

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