More porpoises for Danish facility?

The Fjord & Bælt facility in Denmark has for many years held harbour porpoises obtained via bycatch or stranding for use as part of an ongoing study programme.

The facility is authorized under license by the Danish Nature Agency to hold up to 4 harbour porpoises for study/research purposes and currently holds one female, Freja – the male Eigil having died in 2016.   Despite this facility operating under license for research, the public is able to view the porpoises being fed/trained and the animals have been allowed to breed (although none of the 4 calves born at the facility has survived.)

We understand that the facility now plans to apply to take at least two further harbour porpoises to add to their collection. DFE have written on 19 November 2019 to the Danish Minister of Environment, Lea Wermelin and also the Danish Nature Agency, requesting that in future any porpoises obtained via stranding/bycatch are not retained at Fjord & Bælt, and that the Ministry consider phasing out the keeping of harbour porpoises at the facility in favour of focusing on wild studies, such as the existing research being carried out on the wild population annually as part of Denmark’s NOVANA survey programme.

Update on beluga transfers into Spain from Canada

Image courtesy I Visser

Further to our previous report on the potential import of 2 belugas from Marineland in Ontario to L’Oceanogràfic in Valencia, Spain,  Dolphinaria-Free Europe has continued to address this issue with the relevant authorities.

Just months after the Canadian Government passed legislation prohibiting the breeding of whales and dolphins and their export for entertainment purposes, authorities in Canada have already approved the transfer, and Dolphinaria-Free Europe has today called on the Spanish CITES authorities and the Spanish Minister of the Environment to deny the import of belugas into the country.

Under EU legislation, the CITES Scientific Authority in Spain must be satisfied that the intended accommodation for the belugas be adequately equipped to conserve and care for the animals properly. Dolphinaria-Free Europe believes this is not the case at L’Oceanogràfic and will continue to address this vital issue with a view to ensuring this importation is not authorised.

A press statement to the media outlining our concern over this matter has also been circulated.


No dolphins for Tropicarium, Budapest

DFE previously reported on plans by the owner of the above aquarium to add dolphins for public display at the facility.

According to Hungarian law, the keeping of cetaceans for public display is not allowed in the country, therefore we wrote to the Minister of Agriculture requesting clarification and asking that, if the owner of Tropicarium had applied to keep dolphins, his application be denied.  We also launched our campaign asking for public support on the issue.

It has taken some time to gain a response from the Ministry however we are delighted to report that they have confirmed the law will be upheld and Tropicarium will not be allowed to display dolphins.  DFE Chair, Margaux Dodds commented, “I am delighted with this news following our appeal to the Ministry over this issue, and that the ban on the importation, transport and keeping of dolphins in captivity in Hungary still stands, ensuring the country remains free of captive cetaceans.”

Thank you to all who supported this important campaign.


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.