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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whales are targeted by Icelandic whalers

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
WDC team at UN Ocean conference

Give the ocean a chance – our message from the UN Ocean Conference

I'm looking out over the River Tejo in Lisbon, Portugal, reflecting on the astounding resilience...

Process fails dolphins in Bruges

On 30th January, Belgium’s Animal Welfare Board announced the results of many months of deliberation by a dolphin working group established in 2011 to look at existing standards for captive dolphins in Belgium. There is one dolphinarium in Belgium in Bruges, Boudewijn SeaPark, which currently holds six bottlenose dolphins in captivity for shows and interaction programmes.

As noted in the Board’s press release, the published opinion of the group reflects a compromise between those involved, which included animal welfare organisations and dolphinarium industry representatives. Two of those groups, however, Planète Vie and Sea First Foundation, felt unable to endorse the group’s opinion, in spite of the time and commitment they had given the group’s work and WDC can understand why.

The dolphin working group’s recommendations fail to recognise welfare problems such as stress or stereotypic behaviour as problems for captive dolphins, in spite of evidence to the contrary, including that obtained through observations of the dolphins held in Bruges. Furthermore, they appear to offer nothing that would contribute to dolphin health and welfare beyond recommending that measures are taken to bring the dolphinarium in line with Belgian law on dolphinarium pool size and the EU Zoos Directive, including a varied, enriched environment (although the captive environment can never mirror the diversity bottlenose dolphins would experience in the wild), the establishment of an education programme and participation in scientific research, suggesting the facility is currently in breach of national and EU law. Their focus appears to be on satisfying the demands of the public on dolphin captivity rather than improvements in dolphin health and welfare. Perhaps luckily, public opinion is shifting away from supporting facilities like Boudewijn Park. A petition has been developed calling on the relevant Belgian Minister not to support the group’s recommendations and to develop strict legislation on dolphin captivity.

WDC continues to call on countries like Belgium to develop legislation to phase out dolphin captivity, including by prohibiting the development of further dolphinaria and the import of further dolphins.