Whales and dolphins are amazing beings. They are highly intelligent, social, curious and playful, use tools, and even educate their young. They’re a lot like us in many ways, which can make it tempting to try and forge a personal connection or bond with these magnificent creatures.
In some oceanaria parks, programs are offered that allow visitors to get “up close and personal” by feeding, touching, or even swimming with the whales and dolphins held in captivity. People eagerly sign up and may even pay hundreds of dollars for the chance to meet these creatures face-to-face, but they don’t realize that the individuals they’re “interacting” with aren’t there because they want to be – they’re there because they have to be. Whales and dolphins are forced to perform tricks and do things that are not natural behaviors (like towing a swimmer around with their dorsal fins, balancing balls or hoops, or posing for photos) for a reward.
Captivity is stressful enough for whales and dolphins. Forced into unnatural social groupings and confined to tiny concrete tanks, these individuals are trapped in a life where they have to perform or entertain just so they can eat or have some brief relief from their daily, dreary boredom. “Swim with the dolphins” and “dolphin encounter” programs have the potential to increase the stress they already face and worsen the already horrible conditions of captivity. Studies have shown that, when offered an “exit strategy” (use of another tank where swimmers are not present), dolphins take it – use of a “sanctuary pool” increased significantly during interactive encounter programs.
This summer, WDC is asking you to Pledge Never to Plunge and add your name to the growing movement against holding all whales and dolphins in captivity and exploiting them for entertainment. Thanks to the efforts of groups like ours and the recent attention brought to the captivity industry by documentaries like Blackfish and The Cove, the public is increasingly aware of the truth about captivity and the harm it causes to the whales, dolphins, and porpoises involved. That public outcry resulted in SeaWorld ending its orca breeding program. This is amazing news, but in North America, orcas make up only 4% of the total number of captive whales and dolphins. We won’t let the others be forgotten, and applaud the National Aquarium for planning North America’s first seaside sanctuary for its bottlenose dolphins.
Your choice and your actions make a difference. By pledging never to participate in an interactive encounter program, you are sending a clear message to the industry: captivity is not ok.
As of June 2016, there are approximately 621 captive whales and dolphins held in the United States and Canada – the vast majority of which – 480 – are bottlenose dolphins (source: Ceta-base). Worldwide, there are at least 3,000 individual whales, dolphins, and porpoises held in more than 50 countries. Many countries do not keep detailed records and lack regulations for the care of these individuals, making the exact number held in captivity impossible to know, and raising significant concerns about the welfare of those held in unregulated facilities. In the United States alone, at least 30 facilities offer some form of close encounter with their captive whales and dolphins. 20 European Union member states also have encounter programs allowing paying customers a closer look.
Although SeaWorld’s recent decision to end captive breeding of their orcas has been getting a lot of media attention, there is still a lot of work to do to end captivity for all whales and dolphins. We cannot forget about the hundreds of bottlenose dolphins, belugas, harbor porpoises, and multiple other types of whales and dolphins held in oceanaria around the world. Many of these individuals are wild-caught, ripped from their families in traumatic captures and sold to facilities around the world. Please join WDC in the fight to end captivity for all whales, dolphins, and porpoises and create a world where they are safe and free.
How to get involved:
- Sign WDC’s Pledge Never to Plunge with the #forgottenwhales and #forgottendolphins
- Share your Pledge on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
- Learn more about the truth of the captivity industry
- Support our work with a donation or by adopting a whale