Around 3000 individual whales and dolphins, collectively known as Cetaceans are thought to be in captivity around the world today. They held across 63 countries, with the highest number of marine parks in Japan - 57, China - 44, USA - 34, while Russia and Mexico, both have 24. These ‘marine parks’ are particularly common in popular tourist destinations, such as Florida (USA), the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico), Dominican Republic and Cuba (Caribbean), the Canary Islands (Spain) and in coastal resorts of Turkey.
Dolphins in captivity are trained to perform through ‘operant conditioning'. In simple terms, this system uses food as a reward for reinforcement behaviours, that the trainer wishes to increase and restricts or withdraws food as a punishment for behaviour that the trainer wants to reduce. For many animals trained this way it means that satisfaction of hunger is dependent on the performance of tricks; for others, hunger is deliberately induced so the training will be effective.
Let’s dispel the myth that all ‘captive’ dolphins and whales in theme parks were bred in captivity. The truth is many captive dolphins were once wild and free. While some water parks obtain dolphins legally, others find that doing so takes more time and money than they are willing to invest. As a result, a thriving illegal trade in wild-caught dolphins has emerged to meet the demand.
The capture of wild Dolphins is extremely violent, inherently cruel and detrimental to the overall population.
While quotas are going down for the drive fishery, and fewer dolphins are being slaughtered, there has been a gradual increase in the numbers of dolphins captured for the dolphinarium industry. Dolphinariums are openly doing business with the dolphin hunters so are helping to maintain the dolphin drive hunts.
Taiji is a small village in Japan, notorious for its annual Dolphin drive as featured in the 2010 academy award winning movie The Cove by Louie Psihoyos. From the start of September until the end of February every year a large-scale hunt of dolphins takes place. During this period, fisherman, or more appropriately, dolphin hunters, utilise drive hunt techniques to herd large numbers of dolphins to shore, resulting in their capture or death. Save Me Trust works with the Dolphin Project, the only organisation to have been on the ground in Taiji since 2003.
We know the feeling, when you see Dolphins interacting with each other there is an immediate empathy with these highly sentient incredible animals. So what’s wrong with Sea World and the many other Dolphinariums around the world?
If you haven’t already, take a look at the film Blackish. Link here This film exposed the plight of orcas at SeaWorld, it is a distressing and gritty look behind the scenes at the reality of keeping animals captive purely for human entertainment.
Dolphins and Whales are sentient, highly intelligent mammals - just like us. We know they have feelings, the ability to learn and live in family groups within communities known as pods. They have nursery groups to teach their young, utilising play as a learning tool - again, just like us. But that’s where the similarity ends. You see, some people believe it is good to take dolphins and whales from their family groups, keep them in tiny tanks and ‘train’ them to do ‘tricks’ for people who pay a lot of money to watch these shows. They call it entertainment - we call it abuse! You see Dolphins, Orcas and Whales don’t live in tanks - they live in the ocean - right?