Marine Connection: Conservation through education - protecting whales, dolphins and the world's oceans for the future generations



The UK - A "captive dolphin & whale-free" Zone

Since the early 1990's there have been no captive dolphins or whales on display in the UK, following the closure of the last remaining facilities; Marineland (Morecambe), Brighton Dolphinarium, Windsor Safari Park and Flamingoland (Malton).


So why did this happen?
In the late 1980's early 1990's public opinion on the confinement of these sentient, intelligent marine mammals in a totally un-natural environment purely for public entertainment began to change. The moral issue of keeping such wide-ranging marine mammals in a cramped space, performing for their food under the guise of education or research began to be questioned. Dolphins and whales were in captivity for one reason and one reason only - to make money. So let's look at some of the arguments put forward by marine parks that campaigners proved incorrect to substantiate their argument against the keeping of dolphins and whales in captivity in the UK:

  1. "The animals enjoy performing"
    - FALSE

    Contrary to what marine parks would have us believe, dolphins and whales do not enjoy performing, they are trained to do this. A dolphins' "smile" is a feature it is born with, not an indication of happiness. Various training methods are used, but the most simple and effective would appear to be food deprivation - if the animal does not perform its' tricks effectively or is disruptive in any way, it is simply starved. These mammals are intelligent enough to understand this method of "training" and usually concede defeat in the end rather than starve to death. The animals also suffer severe stress from being placed in these artificial surroundings - the stark, concrete pools offer them no mental stimulation. It is no wonder that the trainers say the animals have to perform to keep them stimulated, after all a concrete pool, surrounded by man-made noise, in no way substitutes for the curiosities of coral reefs, sand, rocks, weed and the challenge of hunting life fish and squid.
  2. "They are here to educate the public"
    - FALSE

    In fact during these shows trainers do offer a bit of educational information about life in the wild and dangers of the sea, pollution and drift netting etc. This is usually followed by a display of the animal's agility, and comments on how such behaviour is characteristic of a happy, wild dolphin. This makes their image look good. But in reality, in the wild a healthy dolphin or whale very rarely beaches itself, jumps to hit a ball, allows someone to ride on its' back, "sings" on command or allows itself to be "kissed" or fed. These are not natural behaviours, simply tricks the marine parks use to keep the audience interested. So to use the excuse the animals are in captivity for educational purposes is simply untrue - what you see in a marine park is a caricature of what the animals acts like in its' natural environment - it is simply mis-information. The only thing you learn about a marine mammal by watching them in captivity is what they physically look like, that they swim in water and breathe air. You could learn more than that from a good video, DVD or movie - without subjecting the animal to a lifetime of captivity. The only way to see marine mammals acting naturally is in the wild, where they belong!
  3. "They are endangered and we have to maintain the species"
    - FALSE

    Most dolphins and whales held in captivity around the world are of two species; Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Killer Whales or Orcas (Orcinus orca). Whilst these animals face many dangers in the wild, they are not yet on the endangered list. Also survival rates and birth rates in captivity are extremely poor, with animals continuing to be captured from wild populations around the world to replenish stocks to marine parks - therefore the argument for the maintenance of an endangered species is also incorrect.
  4. "We really care for our animals"
    - TRUE

    The huge cost of purchasing these animals means they are indeed cared for, after all they are huge money spinning machines, to replace them is expensive, so it is imperative that health is maintained. But that doesn't mean they are happy or not suffering mentally.

Armed with this knowledge, people concerned with the welfare of these marine mammals began protests against the various captive facilities around the UK. By giving the public the opportunity to learn both sides of the story, the public voted with their feet, facilities began losing money and closed down.

For three of the dolphins; Rocky (Morecambe), Missie & Silver (Brighton) - the story had a happy ending. A coalition of concerned individuals and NGO's ensured they swam free in the waters off the Turks & Caicos islands - a far cry from the dim, concrete pools they had come from. Sadly the remaining dolphins (from Windsor and Flamingoland) were sent to Hardjerwijk in Holland and Kolmarden in Sweden respectively - not given the chance of freedom they were doomed to a life of captivity, never to see the ocean, feel the currents, chase live fish or make their own choices ever again.

Failure to secure freedom for the dolphins from Windsor and Flamingoland was disappointing, but from these campaigns came the biggest success of all - the knowledge that the UK would be free of captive whales and dolphins.

Liberty is a right for all both man and beast, we aim to see it stays that way in the UK. It is also why the Marine Connection continues to fight on behalf of dolphins and whales in captivity around the world.








Conservation through education - protecting whales, dolphins and the world's oceans for the future generations