Earthrace UK launches campaign to discourage British holiday makers from paying to see captive whales and dolphins this summer
With the terrible weather that Britons have been experiencing this summer, it’s no wonder that people are leaving in their hundreds and thousands for sun, sea and sand holidays abroad.
Marine conservation organisation, Earthrace UK, believes this is the right time to remind people not to pay to visit dolphin or whale shows, or swim with…programmes whilst abroad.
It has launched a campaign to create more awareness of the terrible conditions thousands of dolphins, orcas and beluga whales are kept in, forced to swim in the equivalent of a bathtub their whole lives purely as ‘entertainment’ for profit.
As part of the campaign, 10,000 schools in England and Scotland have been sent posters and educational, and the initiative is being rolled out to other Earthrace chapters around the world including the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Africa and South America.
Two of the most popular destinations close to the UK – Spain and Turkey – are in the world’s top ten of nations that hold cetaceans captive.
Greece, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Mallorca, Sweden and Switzerland all retain dolphins in amusement parks and sometimes even in hotel swimming pools. Spain and Turkey also keep beluga whales, whilst France and Spain keep killer whales (orcas).
Further afield, some of the most visited ‘attractions’ are the Sea World facilities in San Diego, Texas and Florida where 117 dolphins, 26 orcas, 17 beluga and 3 pilot whales spend their days earning millions of dollars for amusement park bosses.
Altogether, around the world, 40 orcas, 161 beluga whales and 2,088 dolphins are being held in confinement. The worst offenders are the USA, Canada, Japan and China.
Throughout the summer, Earthrace volunteers will be handing out postcards and leaflets outside major travel agents which promote destinations offering whale and dolphin ‘entertainment’ or swim with dolphin experiences.
Lucy Byrne, speaking for Earthrace Conservation UK said: “The only circumstance under which it’s acceptable that any cetacean should be kept away from their natural habitat is in the event of a rescue, followed by a rehabilitation and release programme.
“Educating people of all ages about these sentient, intelligent beings that exist in our oceans, and how they are forced to live while in captivity will, we hope, encourage empathy and widen knowledge about cetaceans so that when individuals are in a position to pay for tickets to whale or dolphin shows, they choose not to.
“If we can make even a small dent in the profits made by owners of the theme parks, aquariums and other facilities holding captive cetaceans by discouraging individuals and families from visiting them, then we’ll have gone some way towards seeing an end to these cruel practices.”
Please don’t pay to see whales and dolphins in captivity – the more you profit those that keep them, the more they will continue to run captive breeding programmes and capture them from the wild.
Please say ‘no’ to the dolphin show
Apart from the claustrophobia you would feel if the only thing you got to swim in was a bathtub for the rest of your life, there are numerous other reasons why cetaceans shouldn’t be kept in captivity:
• Whales, dolphins and other large marine animals are designed to swim long distances in the wild, freely foraging for their own food and contributing to the balance of the marine eco-system as predators of lesser species.
• Dolphins and Whales are highly intelligent mammals. They live in complex family groups and use sonar in the ocean. In captivity, their sonar bounces off the tank walls, their family bonds are broken and they become bored, frustrated and often have to be treated for depression.
• There are high mortality rates among captive whales and dolphins including deaths from the stress of capture and from disease once confined. Most dolphins will live for upwards of 40 and 50 years in the wild, but in parks their survival rates are staggeringly low.
• It’s estimated that fewer than 50% of dolphin captured from the wild survive for more than 90 days.
• Evidence has shown that some deaths are ‘covered up’ by the facilities in which they were held to avoid condemnation and further investigation.
• Captive breeding programmes for these species serve no useful purpose other than providing more of them for people to pay to see, or to sell on to other facilities.
• Cetaceans do not breed well in captivity – this has been proven time and again. There is no logic for maintaining them in captivity as a way of maintaining a species that may be vulnerable or in danger of extinction under the IUCN Red List or CITES.
• Captive breeding programmes are simply an excuse – as with seals and sea lions – to provide more for people to look at or to sell on, both of which increase profits.
Unfortunately, the lack of success with breeding programmes from captive cetaceans only serves to increase the demand for them to be captured from the wild. A wild dolphin can be sold for as much as £96,000!
The dolphins and whales become reliant on humans for food, health and company, and such programmes present dangers from disease and injury to both the animals and to those coming into close contact with them.
Swim with dolphin programmes
Many whale and dolphin species are naturally gregarious, curious and inquiring and they will often move closer to boats and human activities of their own accord, but this should always be on their own terms.
‘Swim with’ dolphin and whale programmes are no more and no less than ‘entertainment’, just in another form.
Even if pens are larger than those found in aquaria and marine parks and they are not forced to do tricks to entertain the crowds, these programmes are equally detrimental to their welfare.
Pens that are adjacent to open seas or oceans create further frustrations for the captive animals because, however hard they may want to, they cannot escape back to their natural habitat.
In some places where programmes exist to swim with wild dolphins, evidence has been shown that dolphins will leave their original natural habitat for areas that are quieter and less targeted by human activities, proving that they do not naturally enjoy this type of interaction.
Under the correct conditions and with adherence to strict rules ensuring no harm comes to the them (for example, accidental boat strikes or encouragement through feeding), dolphin and whale watching programmes from boats are the best way for people to get close to these amazing creatures.