Confinement of Marine Life
Whales and dolphins are complex social animals and are not well suited for a life in captivity. When confined, they are prevented from carrying out natural behaviors, which include roaming up to 100 miles per day, hunting live prey, and interacting with their pod mates - who also suffer when pod members are removed.
When forced to interact with humans in a captive situation they have been known to behave aggressively. By manipulating animals against their will in such a manner, we are not only negatively affecting the animals but are also promoting and passing onto our children a mindset that wild animals are subservient playthings who exist for our entertainment.
The cetaceans most commonly held in captivity for human entertainment are orcas, beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins and Pacific white-sided dolphins.
The tradition of housing cetaceans in captivity began over 100 years ago in the 1860s, when circus mogul P.T. Barnum paid for the capture of two beluga whales off the Labrador coast and transported them to New York. These belugas and later others were housed in Barnum’s American Museum. In the 1870s, many dolphins and belugas were captured for display in aquariums in Europe and the United States, with few surviving very long.
In fact, Barnum had played up the likelihood of belugas dying quickly to motivate the public to visit his exhibits! In July 1865 he wrote in the New York Herald..."NOW IS THE TIME to see these wonders as THEIR LIVES ARE UNCERTAIN, seven of the same species having died while being exhibited at this Museum."
In 1938, at Florida’s Marine Studios, Cecil M. Walker discovered it was possible to train bottlenose dolphins - thus increasing the popularity of dolphins in captivity. But the real boost in captive cetaceans came in the early 1960s, with the release of the movie and TV series "Flipper." Growing demand for dolphins soon fueled the capture and trade of hundreds of dolphins and orcas.
Though tanks are bigger and cetaceans in captivity are less callously treated than in P.T. Barnum's day, the fact remains that captivity for these active, social, mobile animals is still inappropriate. In recent years, more people have become aware of the ethical and philosophical arguments against cetacean captivity and in some places the popularity of dolphin shows has dwindled. Sadly, many captive facilities still exist, and more are being built, particularly in developing countries, and these intelligent animals continue to be bred and wrenched from the wild for public display.