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

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EU Dolphinaria-free zone

This week, WDC joined other leading whale and dolphin experts from around the world to attend a high profile EU-oriented public event in Brussels. The event called upon European citizens, Euro-Parliamentarians and Member States’ Governments to end captive dolphin shows and interactive sessions which exploit the animals and compromise their welfare.

The fact remains that 15 out of the 28 EU Member States have a commercial dolphin facility. Most countries have a single dolphinarium but Member States such as Spain have 11 facilities. In total, there are 34 dolphinaria in the EU displaying 307 cetaceans. Most are bottlenose dolphins but orcas, belugas, harbour porpoise and a single Amazon river dolphin are also kept. In 2011 WDC wrote a review on the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity in the European Union. The report, written for the European coaltion ENDCAP, concluded that no captive cetacean in the EU has the freedom to express normal behaviour, a guiding principle for animal welfare. Dolphinaria in the EU fail to meet the biological requirements of cetaceans in captivity and to provide appropriate species specific enrichment. In short, dolphinaria in the EU are failing to comply with the requirements of the EU Zoos Directive.

In addition to delegates from the EU, the two day conference played host to international experts such as Dr Naomi Rose, an authority on cetacean live capture, trade, and captivity; Dr Ingrid Visser who has researched wild orcas for more than 20 years and former SeaWorld trainer, Samantha Berg, who featured in Blackfish.

The Blackfish effect has brought the issue of cetacean captivity to the mainstream and the conference built on the growing public, political and media interest in this topic.

The Greek MEP, Kriton Arsenis, and a good friend to WDC also lent his support, “Though humans have always had a special connection with cetaceans, their protection has not been a policy priority within Europe for a considerable period of time. What is happening is quite brutal. There has been growing awareness regarding the special nature of cetaceans amongst governments, scientists and the public, it is thus particularly sad that despite all this knowledge on cetaceans dolphinaria still exist. Urgent action is necessary and I am calling for the immediate implementation of the zoo directive and also a phasing out of dolphinaria in Europe.”

The conference culminated in a screening of Blackfish at the European Parliament, hosted by Members of the European Parliament.

Image 1: WDC’s Rob Lott

Image 2: Dr Naomi Rose, Rob Lott, Dr Ingrid Visser and former SeaWorld trainer, Samantha Berg.

Image 3: Conference delegates at the European Parliament