Report reveals over half of EU Member States violate laws protecting whales and dolphins held in captivity
A report released today by WDCS, in association with the Born Free Foundation and ENDCAP reveals that dolphinaria, and the Member States that license them, are failing to meet the requirements of European Union (EU) legislation which aims to protect whales and dolphins in captivity.
The Report entitled, Dolphinaria – A review of the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity in the European Union and EC Directive 1999/22, relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos, highlights the fact that the 14 (out of 27) States that do keep these animals in captivity contravene the EU Zoos Directive by failing to conform to criteria relating to conservation, education and animal welfare.
These 14 States alone are home to 34 captive dolphin facilities (or dolphinaria) displaying a reported 286 small whales, dolphins and porpoises and, as WDCS anti captivity lead, Cathy Williamson states, these commercially driven, circus-style shows may seem like fun but the truth is much sadder.
“Although there are a number of different pieces of legislation safeguarding wild whales and dolphins in the EU only the EU Zoos Directive provides captive whales and dolphins with any form of EU-wide protection.
“By requiring that Member States ensure the zoos in their countries operate for the benefit of biodiversity, zoos (including dolphinaria) must meet certain conditions in terms of conservation and education, and they must keep the animals under conditions that provide them with their natural biological needs – which is simply impossible for whales and dolphins.”
Daniel Turner, spokesperson for ENDCAP and project manager of the EU Zoo Inquiry 2011, explained the significance of the EU dolphinaria report. “The inclusion of a specific investigation into the status and performance of EU dolphinaria as part of the EU Zoo Inquiry 2011 Project is hugely significant. So often, these facilities, and the hundreds of marine mammals held within them, are forgotten. The EU Zoo Inquiry and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society aim to ensure this is not the case and that EU Member States recognise that dolphinariums, like other zoos, must not only abide by national zoo laws but must ensure they provide all their animals with their species-specific needs.”
The Report was compiled using data from 18 dolphinaria collected as part of a European-wide zoo investigation called the EU Zoo Enquiry 2011, as well as a review of literature and web-based information. When held up against the legal requirements of the EU Zoos Directive and other relevant EU legislation, the results were damning.
The Report’s findings
Conservation or cruelty? Education or entertainment?
The Report’s analysis found that dolphinaria in the EU are making little to no contribution to conservation and that in fact they may be detrimental to the conservation of wild whales and dolphins.
Studies show dolphins to have a lower survival rate in captivity than in the wild. The captive population is unsustainable. Captures of wild dolphins for captivity still goes on in some parts of the world. The danger remains that if the number of dolphinaria in the EU remains the same or increases that attempts may be made by dolphinaria to import further wild-caught dolphins into the EU which contradicts EU law, too. Dolphinaria are commercial enterprises that charge entrance fees to visitors who are entertained by elaborate dolphin shows. The investigation also revealed that no dolphinarium in the EU is involved in a programme of release of whales or dolphins into the wild and that only seven facilities out of the 34 in the EU actually make any reference to being involved in conservation of wild dolphins just on their websites. Hardly any serious research is undertaken on captive dolphins that would contribute to conservation initiatives
Analysis of footage taken at 18 dolphins shows in the EU clearly demonstrates that they are geared to entertainment. Dolphinaria fail to provide audiences with even the most basic details on the species who perform tricks and stunts for the amusement of visitors. An average of only 12.3% of the commentaries at the shows analysed included any information about the animals on display that could be considered to be educational (what dolphins eat, the parts of their bodies, even that they are mammals). Despite the death and injury of experienced trainers, some facilities still put animals and visitors at risk by allowing people to swim with them, leading the public to think that this is healthy and normal behaviour
The Report states, a dolphin in captivity does not have the freedom he or she would have in the wild. Small, sterile tanks can’t support the plant or food life or social stimulus that the animals need, causing severe detriment to the health and welfare of captive dolphins. “WDCS calls on the EU Commission, Member States as well as Members of the EU Parliament to react immediately to ensure the provisions of the EU Zoos Directive are met, resulting in a phase out of captive dolphin displays within the European Union”, Williamson concludes.
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