Dolphinariums, whether in a zoo or within an aquatic animal park, are centres which keep cetaceans (dolphins, orcas and beluga whales) in captivity. In most cases the animals have to perform daily in shows to provide entertainment to the visitors. They are also forced into photo sessions, direct contact with the visitors in the water and even dolphin therapy programs.
The basic needs of cetaceans, species which travel large distances daily and which have highly complex social groups, make it impossible to guarantee their wellbeing in captivity. The diet of frozen fish, which they receive in exchange for obeying the orders of their trainers, also has negative consequences on their health and is connected to the deactivation of their most characteristic sense, echolocation.
Their natural behaviour is drastically modified. As well as behaving in a way they would never behave in the wild and not having interesting surroundings to explore, captive cetaceans spend most of the time with their heads out of the water, waiting to receive orders or food. In their natural habitat these marine mammals spend 80% of their time underwater interacting with their surroundings, searching for food and swimming. They only come to the surface to breath.
Unfortunately, because of the shape of their jaw, cetaceans appear to grin which often makes humans think they are smiling, and therefore they must be happy creatures. The truth is that most of them are depressed and stressed out thanks to their life in captivity. They have to be medicated daily and end up getting sick or becoming aggressive.
Japan, China, USA, Russia, Ukraine and Spain are the 7 countries with the most dolphinariums. Spain heads the list in the EU with 12 dolphinariums, in which about 100 dolphins live, along with 6 orcas and 2 belugas.
Unfortunately Spain is the dolphinarium of Europe. There are more dolphinariums here than in any other member state. These centres are regulated by the Law 31/2003 for the conservation of wild fauna in zoos. In other words dolphinariums in Spain should have a role in education, research and conservation. Furthermore, they should accommodate the animals in conditions which allow them to satisfy their biological needs and they should not be used in shows or other activities which are clearly far from educational. These conditions are systematically ignored in all centres of this type which are located in the Iberian peninsula.
In countries such as Costa Rica, Chile or India the keeping of cetaceans in captivity has already been banned. Others have managed to finish with dolphinariums by banning the importation of new animals (Switzerland) or tightening the rules so much that centres have no option (UK).
At European level
We act via the foundation SOSdelfines, a campaign led by FAADA which advocates the end of cetaceans in captivity. It counts on the support of the organisations ANDA, Animanaturalis, Born Free Foundation, Ocean Care, One Voice, Mare Vivo and LAV.
Through Dolphinaria-Free Europe, a coalition made up of different organisations, professionals and European experts in marine mammals which is working towards ending their captivity.
At international level
We work with experts in cetaceans and other scientists with the aim of defining and creating solutions, like for example, the creation of marine sanctuaries where dolphins which are currently being exploited can go to die with dignity.