While the tide is turning in the West for captive marine mammals, live capture operations, traveling dolphin shows, polluted sea pens and needless deaths of animals characterize the captivity industry around the world. Marine entertainment shows are multiplying in Asia, where in China alone the number of these facilities has nearly doubled in the past three years.
In their updated report “The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity,” Naomi Rose of the Animal Welfare Institute and Chris Parsons of Glasgow University lay out in plain English what’s wrong with keeping whales and dolphins and all other marine mammals in captivity.
It’s an invaluable resource for any of us wanting a clear explanation, whether for ourselves or for sharing with others.
In 12 brief chapters, full of pictures and pull-outs, they offer the latest scientific understanding of:
- What’s wrong with the claims made by the marine entertainment industry that their shows are educational;
- What’s wrong with their claims that keeping marine mammals in captivity is valuable for conservation and research;
- How, contrary to popular belief, marine entertainment parks, especially in the East, are still capturing marine mammals in the wild;
- The fact that the size of a typical captive tank or enclosure is generally less than one ten-thousandth of 1% of the range of a marine mammal’s natural habitat;
- The enormous growth of marine entertainment parks in Asia. China has at least 76 dolphinariums and marine parks, and at least 25 more planned over the next few years.
- Which health problems are unique to marine mammals in captivity – like damage to their teeth by chewing or grinding them on concrete tank walls and floors and biting down on metal gates;
- How the stress of confinement can lead the animals to increasingly frequent, intense levels of aggression;
- Why bottlenose dolphins never become accustomed to transport, whether it is an initial capture or being shuffled from one facility to another, and why the stress they experience can be fatal;
- What’s wrong with swimming with dolphins, feeding programs, and dolphin-assisted-“therapy”;
- How disease may be transmitted when humans and marine mammals interact;
- And how the extraordinary level of complex cognition of these animals leads to yet more suffering in captivity.
Naomi Rose PhD is Marine Mammal Scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute and a board member of the Whale Sanctuary Project. Zoologist Chris Parsons PhD is a research affiliate of the University of Glasgow and has been studying and teaching the biology and conservation of whales and dolphins for over two decades.
You can download their report here.