Dolphinariums, Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums


Dolphinariums, Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums

Capturing and confining dolphins and orcas in restrictive concrete pools is killing them—physically, emotionally and psychologically. Don’t support captive animal entertainment.

Orcas and dolphins have lived in the wild for millions of years. Most orcas have a lifespan today of 50-60 years, but some females have been known to live as long as 100 years in the wild. But orcas in captivity only live an average of 10-20 years. And not one orca in captivity has died of old age. Dolphins typically live between 20-40 years in the wild, but in captivity they live half as long. Both captive orcas and dolphins die prematurely from living in restrictive captivity—they experience deep psychological trauma and neurosis from boredom, stress and anxiety. Everyday they are denied their family bonds and social community they were born into, and are prevented from expressing their natural instincts and behaviors. They are also denied the ability to swim for tens of miles everyday as they normally would. In captivity, they live diminished lives in restrictive concrete tanks, where they must perform tricks and entertain people against their will. Dolphins are forced to swim with people for hours a day and must incur the stress of being touched and handled for hours by shifts of people, nonstop, against their will. And orcas and dolphins navigate by “echolocation” or sonar signals, but confined to their pools, the sounds bounce off the walls and the reverberations drive them insane. The loud noises they hear causes them to suffer psychologically and physically, where they will try to hurt themselves and swim listlessly crashing their body parts against the tank grates, biting and chewing on cage grates, and incurring massive injuries.DOLPHINARIUMS, MARINE MAMMAL PARKS AND AQUARIUMS

Some History & Statistics

Orcas have been in captivity since 1961, the first was for Marineland of the Pacific, who captured a female orca and when they introduced her to her small tank, she swam in circles at high speeds crashing into the walls and killed herself. A year later, Marineland searched for another killer whale for their aquarium, and ended up causing so much distress to two whales they attacked the boat, and Marineland’s hunter shot them to death. Since then, over 156 orcas have been forcibly captured from the ocean and forced to entertain humans. Of these 156 wild orcas, 128 have died. A total of 165 orcas have died in captivity, including whales born into captive breeding programs by SeaWorld and other marine parks. Captive female orcas often miscarry and have still-born calfs from the stress of captivity. SeaWorld has lost 46 orcas very prematurely from their dismal lives in captivity.

Some Positive News

DOLPHINARIUMS, MARINE MAMMAL PARKS AND AQUARIUMSBut in 2016, SeaWorld made the decision to end their orca breeding program, making the current 30 whales at SeaWorld, the last generation of captive orcas. In addition, they have committed to phase out their orca shows in San Diego and focus on the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals in crisis. Also in 2016, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, announced it will retire its eight captive dolphins to a sea Sanctuary. But countries like Russia, Cuba and Japan are still capturing wild dolphins and whales to sell to entertainment venues and marine parks around the world.

Animal Welfare Violations & Lack of Protections

In addition, marine parks like Miami Seaquarium, Six Flags in Vallejo, CA, SeaWorld in San Diego and Orlando, and Marineland in Canada, have incurred countless animal welfare violations of the Animal Welfare Act. In the U.S., the Animal Welfare Act provides specific standards of care, but often they are not enforced because of a small number of inspectors to inspect all of the facilities in the U.S. There is a need for much greater enforcement of current standards or the passage of new laws aimed at protecting captive marine mammals. In many countries today, lax regulations have led to filthy, inadequate tanks, sick orcas and dolphins, a high injury rate, and countless premature deaths. DOLPHINARIUMS, MARINE MAMMAL PARKS AND AQUARIUMS

No matter how good the aquarium or marine park is—or how big—there is no size big enough to confine such intelligent, complex wild animals that are accustomed to swimming up to 100 miles a day with their families, as free autonomous beings. Marine biologists and ethicists believe that orcas should not be kept in captivity at all. By patronizing marine parks, aquarium shows, and dolphinariums we only encourage their capture and confinement, and subjugation by humans for the rest of their lives. Please help protect them by not patronizing these venues and maybe we can save them one day.

See the list of orcas in captivity worldwide as of 2016.

Fate of Orcas in Captivity At SeaWorld and Other Marine Parks


End The Cruelty of Whales and Dolphins in Captivity


The Brutal Killing of Taiji Dolphins in Taiji, Japan



Humans are clearly in love with dolphins. And what’s not to love? But if you love them and respect them, don’t swim with them or support these businesses. Dolphinariums and programs offering “swimming with the dolphins” have grown in popularity in recent years. Today, they can be found all over the Caribbean including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman and Cancun. There are new businesses popping up in other countries and states as well. But dolphins and cetaceans simply don’t belong in captivity for many reasons. These businesses are profit-driven and are using and sadly, abusing dolphins, for profit. The only way to stop the growth and development of these businesses—is to stop the demand.

Where Dolphinariums & Marine Parks Get Dolphins

DOLPHINARIUMS, MARINE MAMMAL PARKS AND AQUARIUMSIn order for dolphinariums to get dolphins, they must buy them from hunters who catch them in the wild. The “dolphin hunts” are extremely traumatic and egregiously stressful and harmful. The hunts tear apart their families and social groups, and cause suffering, injury and often death from entanglement and suffocation. Once corralled by boats, the dolphins are chased into nets, rounded up and captured, then hoisted into the boat, and transported by plane to their destination—the “buyer.” But mortality rates are high during the capture and transport, and both are inhumane, causing unnecessary injury and stress. It’s common for dolphins to develop stress-related conditions that result from their capture. Because female dolphins are considered more trainable, most captive dolphins are females. But dolphin populations have been falling in recent years, and capturing more dolphins from the wild, is depleting an already at-risk population of mammals, especially removing the females that would ordinarily breed and produce offspring.

Captive Breeding Programs Are Inhumane Too

Because of the protests of animal rights groups and nonprofits fighting against the capture of wild dolphins, more dolphinariums are introducing captive breeding programs. These dolphins will never experience the open ocean in their short and stressful lifetimes. And scientists say that captive bred dolphins are losing their natural instincts, forcing dolphins and cetaceans to live in captivity with no ability to live in the wild.

Dolphins belong in the ocean. They are extremely social animals, and live and travel in groups ranging from 2-40 dolphins. By confining them and putting them in restrictive pools with humans, everything changes for them.

The Cruelty of Dolphinariums & Swimming With the Dolphins

Dolphin holding pens are extremely shallow and unnaturally small, and often just bare concrete pools. Reports say the enclosure sizes are less than 1 percent of their natural habitat range. Dolphins naturally dive often to 60 feet depths, but in captivity they aren’t allowed to do what comes naturally to them. There is no diving for them.

Often these businesses don’t provide veterinary care, and with dolphins swimming with humans and other dolphins in close quarters daily—they are subjected to disease and germs, causing them to get sick and die. Chlorine is used in pools, but the chemicals in the chlorine are unnatural and deadly for them. The chlorine hurts their eyes and often causes blindness for them. There are countless cases of this.

Dolphins suffer from psychosis swimming with humans in confinement—forced to swim in small pens all day with people and children, being touched constantly, and performing repeated tricks—they become deeply frustrated and aggressive, which is not typical behavior for them. Female dolphins become so frustrated and anxious that trainers have said they will kill their newborns—they often suffocate them at birth. It’s thought that these females don’t want their babies to live in captivity and experience their deep unhappiness, stress and misery.

In these dolphinariums, numerous and frequent welfare incidents have been documented worldwide. Cetaceans in captivity are given antibiotics and ulcer medications, which is not natural for them. Dolphins experience severe sunburns from swimming in shallow pools. They are exposed to polluted waters from humans and other dolphins, and some have been held in isolation for training purposes, which causes psychosis for them. Cata Base documents dolphin capture rates, and the transport and death rates of captive dolphins worldwide.

Dolphin Petting Pools & Dolphin Interactive Programs

“Swimming with the dolphins” or “touch tanks” allow the public to pet, touch, kiss, swim and sometimes even “ride” the dolphins. As you can imagine, this causes enormous stress to the dolphins, invades their autonomous space and natural world, and disrespects their wild nature and species’ behavior. It’s all done for business profit that promotes human entertainment, but disrespects the dolphins as independent minded beings. These dolphins have no choice but to inhabit small and shallow concrete swimming pools, where they are forced to interact and be touched by humans constantly everyday, and cannot escape. Because of the constant stress, human activity, and inability to escape, dolphins have bitten children acting out aggression due to their stress and fear. These businesses endanger both dolphins and the public, and are often in violation of federal laws and animal welfare laws. Dolphins are exposed to foreign pathogens and bacteria they have no immune system for, and the pools that they are housed in are far too shallow, too small in circumference, and are filthy and polluted subjecting them to disease, and the high levels of chlorination cause them to go blind. 

Swimming with dolphins in the wild is still intrusive and disturbing to them, and is insensitive to their species. So out of respect for the animal, it’s important that humans understand these activities are harmful to the dolphins psychologically, emotionally and physically and disrespects them as autonomous animals who have their own desires and drives.

See the list of captive dolphin facilities that have closed or never opened.

Here’s a Step-by-Step Guide to Dolphin Activism!

Why Mammals Don’t Belong in Captivity

  1. Cruel Hunts to Get Dolphins & Orcas – These cruel hunts brutalize pods and social groups, many individuals get injured and killed. Only the young and fit are kidnapped and taken from their families.
  2. Taking Future Generations – Dolphins are taken from already vulnerable wild populations that cause a huge negative impact and loss on their social groups.
  3. Whales and Dolphins Are Imported – After a cruel and grueling capture of whales and dolphins in other countries, they can be imported to the U.S. for profit-driven businesses.
  4. Family Bonds Are Destroyed — Orcas and dolphins are highly social animals, that form deep and lifelong bonds. They live in large matrilineal pods with their family in the ocean usually for their entire lives. Capturing them young and tearing them away from their family, destroys their family, their bond, causes the family grief and anguish, and traumatizes the whales forever.
  5. Lack Needed Exercise – Orcas and dolphins in captivity circle their swimming pool and perform tricks, but that’s not the same as swimming free in the ocean for miles everyday. In captivity they have very little space to move and are held in very small holding tanks overnight.
  6. Confining Individuals Together Results in Stress and Aggression – They have no possible escape from each other, and too many are housed together, causing deep stress.
  7. These Captive Mammals Go Insane – Orcas and dolphins navigate by “Echolocation,” which are sonar signals, but living in their restrictive pools, the sounds bounce off the walls and the reverberations drive them insane. They suffer psychologically and also physically. Captivity in small pools causes them to hurt themselves, and swim listlessly crashing their body parts against the tank grates, biting and chewing on cage grates destroying their teeth, and incurring massive injuries.
  8. They Cannot Behave Naturally – Orcas and dolphins cannot behave naturally in small concrete tanks, as a result, they suffer miserable lives, get depressed, anxious, stressed and suffer emotionally, mentally and physically.
  9. Immune Systems are Weakened – In captivity both orcas’ and dolphins’ immune systems are weakened substantially, making them more prone to disease and early death. The death rate for infant whales and dolphins is much higher in captivity.
  10. Reduced to Objects to Entertain Humans – Orcas intelligence and complex family and social relationships are reduced to simple repeated performances, 365 days a year, year in and year out. They are hamsters on a treadmill, with every day the same, and they never get the opportunity to be the highly intelligent animals they are naturally, in all the ways they like to express themselves.
  11. Beyond Shows, There is No Stimulation – Once the show is over, dolphins and orcas languish in boredom and inactivity.
  12. These Mammals Have Little Protection – Government regulations are nearly non-existent, and enforcement is virtually nil. Facilities are notorious for chronic violations, and the USDA rarely levies fines or penalties. There are 126 USDA inspectors for 10,500 facilities.

What You Can Do to Help

  1. Don’t Attend or Visit Marine Mammal Parks or Aquarium Shows – Don’t support their captivity, breeding in captivity, and hunting down wild baby orcas and dolphins, tearing them from their families to imprison them and making them perform.
  2. Tell Friends and Family Not to Visit or Support Marine Mammal Parks – Like Miami Seaquarium, Six Flags in Vallejo, CA, SeaWorld in San Diego and Orlando, and Marineland in Canada – they are all bad.
  3. Sign Petitions! – See the petitions below and sign! Ask airlines to stop transporting dolphins from Taiji. Ask SeaWorld to stop holding shows at SeaWorld with dolphins and 29 orcas. Ask businesses and industries to stop supporting SeaWorld and other theme parks and aquariums from this cruelty.
  4. Ask For Bans – Support efforts to BAN the cruel hunts in the ocean and BAN the establishment of captive facilities around the world holding dolphins and whales.
  5. Speak Out – Encourage marine parks to become spaces for rehabilitating injured mammals and releasing them, and not breeding or hunting them. You can leaflet at local marine parks and aquariums, here’s how.
  6. Call and Write Your Congressman and Elected Officials – Tell them not to support marine mammal captivity. Find your Senators, find your House Representatives. Here are steps to help legislate change for animals. Read Passing Animal-Friendly Legislation.
  7. Educate Yourself – Watch Blackfish, The Whale, BreachTheFilm, visit Center for Whale Research and The Orca Project, and read Death At SeaWorld.
  8. Watch the BlueVoice Videos – Learn more here
  9. Keep Your Community Free of Captive Facilities – Learn how here.
  10. Animal Alert! – When you see a captive animal suffering in a theme or marine park, or dolphinarium, take positive action and File A Report. Complete it online or download the PDF to fill out, then mail it back to Born Free USA.

Please Sign the Petitions!

Stop the Taiji Slaughter,

Stop the Slaughter of Whales and Dolphins,

Ask SeaWorld to Stop False Claims About Captive Orcas,

Stop Cetacean Captivity and Denounce Taiji Hunts,

Ask Walmart to Stop Supporting Dolphin-Deadly Tuna,

Ask CEO of Star Alliance, Mark Schwab, to Issue a Policy Against Transporting Live Dolphins,

And these too! …

End All Imports & Exports of Dolphins Across U.S. Borders

End All Captures of Dolphins for Public Display in U.S. Territorial Waters

End Swim-With-Dolphins Programs

End All Dolphin Petting Pools

End All Dolphin-Assisted Therapy Programs

Please urge Ellen Degeneres to stop promoting the Mirage Hotel.

Ask The Russian Government To Ban The Wild Capture Of Orcas

Learn More

These 5 Aquariums Are Just as Bad As SeaWorld, The DODO

Orca who Was Once Free Beaches Herself After Performing, The DODO

10 Signs Whales and Dolphins Do Not Belong in Tanks, One Green Planet

Killer Whales Don’t Belong in Captivity – Here’s Why, One Green Planet

Aquariums and Marine Parks, PETA

Marine Animal Exhibits: Chlorinated Prisons, PETA

Dispelling the Arguments of Captivity Proponents, Animal Welfare Institute

Debunking Captivity: 3 Reasons Not to Keep Dolphins in a Tank, National Geographic

SeaWorld Orcas Have an Alarming Number of Injuries Vet Reveals, The DODO

The Disturbing Truth Behind Your Swim With the Dolphins, The DODO

Ex-SeaWorld Employee gives Chilling New Details About Orca Mistreatment, The DODO

New Footage Shows SeaWorld Orca Slamming Against Gate Over and Over, The DODO

Films To Watch & Books to Read


A Fall From Freedom,

Blue Voice Films,

Death At SeaWorld,

The Cove,

Save Lolita,

Free Morgan,

Rekindling the Waters, The Truth About Swimming With Dolphins,

Voice of the Orca,

Important Organizations & Websites

Animal Welfare Groups Addressing Captive Performing Animals & Saving Dolphins and Whales

Dolphinariums, Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums




Photo Credits: Images from Jacques Cousteau, the documentary film Blackfish, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

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