Dolphins Shouldn’t Swim with People

A woman who swam with dolphins has written a very brave counterpoint to all the overblown discourse on the joys of swimming with dolphins. She says she loves them, so she will never swim with them again because she now knows how much suffering is caused by keeping them in captivity. “Captive dolphins experience severe trauma, stress, boredom, claustrophobia, sickness, insanity and early death. They are unable to hunt or behave naturally, are confined to areas much smaller than what is healthy for their species, and some captive dolphins commit suicide,” she wrote. (Source: (Her first and last dolphin swimming experience took place in Cancun.)

It isn’t clear exactly where the dolphin suicide notion came from, or if it actually occurs but everything else she wrote is backed by reputable organizations like the Humane Society and the World Society for the Protection of Animals. First of all, let’s be precise about where captive dolphins come from. They are herded in the wild and captured, resulting in stress, injury and even death. According to WSPA, 53% of dolphins don’t survive the first three months of captivity after being captured and transported. Captive dolphins are probably highly stressed due to being confined in small spaces, and nearly every space they are kept in is far too small when you consider they can swim 40 miles a day or more. Also, they are being kept against their will–if they had a choice they would surely return to open, natural waters. In captivity, they are often separated from family members for no reason, which is very stressful to them.

There might be 1,000 dolphins in several hundred facilities kept for swimming with people or stunt exhibitions for paying visitors. This cottage industry has been described as unsustainable due to the fact more and more wild dolphins must be captured to populate the facilities because of captive dolphin deaths, low reproductive rates and shortened life spans.

The only reason such facilities offer dolphin swims is to make money for themselves. They may market the swims as education, but clearly they are trying to cover their true motive. Paid swims often include the dolphins having to perform stunts like pulling the customers through the water, or swimming with a customer standing on them. These kinds of tricks are not the least bit educational and only are done for the sake of entertainment.

Also, the high cost of swims sometimes over one hundred dollars indicate they are done for profit not education. One can learn much more by watching dolphin documentaries for very little money (Netflix) or clips on YouTube, which would be free.

The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration has published guidelines that support the blogger’s view dolphins should be left alone. NOAA says about wild dolphins:

Dolphins are not water toys or pets.
“However, truly wild dolphins will bite when they are angry, frustrated or afraid. When people try to swim with wild dolphins, the dolphins are disturbed. ”

Dolphin scientists have proof of injuries.
“Feeding wild dolphin disrupts their social groups which threatens their ability to survive in the wild. Young dolphins do not survive if their mothers compete with them for hand-outs and don’t teach them to forage.” (Source:

Image Credit: Public Domain


Related Links

Endangered Dolphins Still in Trouble
Endangered River Dolphins Need Help


Christine J
Christine J2 years ago

Mostly true, with a slightly misleading headline. Dolphins in the wild will sometimes choose to swim with people. They are intelligent and curious animals. When they've had enough they'll leave. I've done this and it was quite clear that the dolphins were enjoying themselves; it was marvellous. Whales are the same; they will come right up to the side of a boat and have a good look at you; again, because they are intelligent and curious. So long as you select an ethical business (no chasing, no touching, no feeding) it's fine. As for keeping them in captivity where they are forced to interact with paying customers, that is truly wrong and IMHO should be illegal.

Neville B.
Neville B3 years ago

Just more performing circuses, thriving on their cruelty and our ignorance. : (

Pat P.
Pat P3 years ago

Coral Jane: Your are right dolphins are not goldfish--who I don't believe enjoy captivity, either, especially in a barren little bowl--not able to grow to their natural size!

The fact that dolphins are very intelligent creatures makes their plight even worse, but I don't believe even dumb animals (I don't imagine there are many) would enjoy being torn from their families and their natural habitats, forced to live in deplorable conditions! Just because humans don't understand an animal, their motivations or behaviors doesn't make them stupid, either! It just means we are ignorant!

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

Wanting to be friends with wild animals is something a lot of people want to do. Then there is the pollution, confinement, destruction of their worlds, and, re to consider. They have no way to know you are a 'good person' they can trust. So accidents can happen.

Vasilis T.
Vasilis T3 years ago

@Audrey Tilley: Wild animals belong to the wild, period. There are plenty of domesticated animals like dogs, horses, donkeys, pigs that can serve this purpose.

Elizabeth Gi
Elizabeth G5 years ago

Omg.... I lived my dream of swimming with a dolphin in 2010.... I feel awful now. Poor Jenny :'( (Before anyone says anything, I was like 17 or 16 and I was too ecstatic to do any research on what the poor dolphins go through.)

Dainzu Arroyo
Dainy Arroyo6 years ago

Dolphins are not water toys. This must be stopped.

Talya Honor
Talya H6 years ago

No large sea animal should live in a "fishbowl" :(

Tanja Z.
Tanja Zilker7 years ago

thanks for info