Marineland, Canada to transfer two beluga whales to L’Oceanogràfic, Spain

image: Mendar Bouchali

When this transfer was first rumoured in July this year, Dolphinaria-Free Europe wrote a letter outlining our concerns to the CITES authorities in Spain and Canada, also the European Commission.  This was supported by over 20 international NGOs and scientists.  We stressed how it is increasingly well documented in the scientific literature that whales and dolphins held in captivity suffer significant and numerous health and welfare problems as a result of their confinement. We also highlighted issues relating to aggression and stress-related illnesses.

A response received from the European Commission stated that there was no obligation for Member States to submit such import applications to the Commission for scrutiny.   They went on to comment that the 2003 decision to which we referred concerned a different species of cetacean (not belugas) and did not result in an EU-wide opinion whereby future applications would have to be considered by the Commission.

Canadian Fisheries Minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, who authorised the permits despite Bill S-203 having recently been passed and laws put in place in Canada on the import/export of cetaceans, justified his decision to lift the ban in this instance due to the fact that Marineland belugas are very overcrowded and that the Spanish facility is better equipped to look after the two belugas in question.  However, as the tank at L’Oceanogràfic already holds 3 belugas, one of which shows signs of extreme stereotypical behaviour, adding Marineland’ s two belugas will simply escalate any welfare issues, therefore we feel this argument is hardly justified.

DFE will continue to challenge this decision as these whales should not be allowed to be transferred into Europe.

Campaign launched against dolphin captivity in Germany

image: WDC/Charlie Phillips

Dolphinaria-Free Europe member Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) has launched a new anti-captivity campaign #FREI in Germany. The purpose of the campaign is to gather support for a phase-out of captivity in Germany, by asking supporters to sign and send postcards to the two remaining zoos in Germany who keep captive dolphins. The ultimate goal is to close the last two dolphinaria in Germany and follow the example of many other countries in Europe.

Keeping those highly intelligent and social creatures in captivity for human entertainment is simply wrong. Concrete tanks can never replace the ocean and therefore the breeding of dolphins in captivity must be stopped. Some of the dolphins in Germany were born in captivity; some have been captured in the wild. Dolphin Nynke was only two years old when she was separated from her family in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then she has been transported from one European dolphinarium to another, finally ending up at the Nuremberg Zoo. Trying to fit into new groups of dolphins every few years has been an additional challenge for her in addition to the risks posed to her health and welfare through being confined in captivity. Nynke has given birth four times in captivity. Two of her calves died shortly after birth and the third was taken away from her after only two years. The separation of mothers and their calves is only one part of the cruel practice of keeping dolphins in captivity in Europe.

A number of other materials including a short film can be viewed on the WDC website (in German).  Please visit and lend your support to this campaign to bring about an end to dolphin captivity in Germany.


Loro Parque says orca breeding programmes and research on reproduction is vital

image courtesy Marine Connection

Following the issue of their ‘encyclopaedia’ of anti-captivity arguments, Loro Parque recently included a post on their social media explaining why their work on orca breeding including research of reproduction is so important.

Highlighting threats to wild orcas in an accompanying video, Loro Parque independent expert Dr Geraldine Lacave, cites one danger as being high levels of PCBs which are threatening the isolated orca population on the West Coast of Scotland.

Whilst it is true that this population does indeed face some of the highest levels of PCBs in Europe, as found by Dr Paul D Jepson of ZSL, in his 2016 study on the impact of PCB pollution on orcas and other dolphins in European waters  – there are several PCB hotspots in Europe, including the West Coast of Scotland and the Straits of Gibraltar, however whilst there is a link between PCB levels and falling numbers of orcas (and dolphins), it is not a direct connection.

Dr Lacave further states that in several decades, a stock of captive orcas may be required to replace decimated wild stocks.  Surely issues facing wild cetaceans should be addressed, and solutions found, without confining them to tanks on public display in the name of research and science.

Festa Dolphinarium Varna dolphin death

Following the death of a young dolphin calf, reportedly during a live performance at Festa Varna dolphinarium in Bulgaria earlier this month, DFE member Marine Connection immediately contacted the Mayor requesting he investigate this.

The autopsy showed the young calf to be in good general health but was said to have a ‘brain problem’.  To date, at least 6 other marine mammals have died there, and the tanks clearly are not to standards required to meet international conditions set out for the keeping of dolphins for public display, which raises further concern over the general husbandry and welfare of the five remaining dolphins and two sealions.

Source: Marine Connection

Loro Parque’s ‘Encyclopedia of Anti-Captivity Arguments’

image: courtesy Marine Connection

Recently, the Spanish theme park Loro Parque produced a document, the ‘Encyclopedia of Anti-Captivity Arguments,’ in which they attempt to rebut quoted statements from various sources expressing an anti-captivity viewpoint. Many of these statements were made by the undersigned or the organisations we represent. We welcome any opportunity to add clarity to the debate over cetaceans in captivity; however, as professional marine mammal scientists, advocates and educators ourselves, we felt it was necessary to voice our concerns over this document and how our statements were presented.

We note that most of the quoted statements are taken out of context; there are numerous errors in the rebuttals; and several studies are cited in ways that distort their actual results. Given the document’s length, we feel it is not a constructive use of our time to rebut this document in-depth, but rather we will continue to gather scientific evidence, publish peer-reviewed and white papers, and work towards the end of keeping cetaceans in captivity for commercial purposes.

We recommend that those seeking additional information consult SeaWorld Fact Check, where similar statements by Loro Parque’s previous corporate partner, SeaWorld, and the rebuttals that some of us have produced can be found.

We recognise that it is likely the industry will produce more of this type of rhetoric; however, it is our view that the fundamental animal welfare concerns associated with these types of facilities will not be resolved until there are no more cetaceans in concrete tanks.

Signed (alphabetically by organisation)

Naomi A. Rose, PhD
Animal Welfare Institute

Chris Draper
Born Free Foundation

Margaux Dodds
Dolphinaria-Free Europe
Marine Connection

Ric O’Barry
The Dolphin Project

Miriam Martinez, PHD

William Neal
Long Gone Wild

Howard Garrett
Orca Network

Ingrid N. Visser, PhD
Orca Research Trust
Free Morgan Foundation

Silvia Barquero

Cathy Williamson
Whale and Dolphin Conservation
(formerly Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society)

Jürgen Ortmüller
Whale and Dolphin Protection Forum

Another dolphin birth at Planete Sauvage, France

Image courtesy Cetabase.

On May 7th, Planete Sauvage announced that the bottlenose dolphin known as Parel had given birth to a calf weighing around 12kg.

This is the fourth birth at the park and the second calf for Parel who in 2016 gave birth to a male calf known as Nouma.   In 2015 Parel also gave birth to a female calf which was killed after being placed in the hospital pool with her mother, who sustained a violent attack from another dolphin called Lucille. Lucille appeared to be suffering mental stress after being transferred from Harderwijk in the Netherlands, separated from her two calves which remained there.

The park is now running a competition for the public to name the new calf, believed to be male*.

*UPDATE: 16.07.19 – the calf is now confirmed to be male and has been named ‘Kuma’.

Information courtesy Marine Connection