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We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...

Forgotten dolphins #5 – sanctuaries and other solutions

Please sign our petition now

As our campaign calling on British Airways to end its relationship with SeaWorld gathers momentum (and thanks to everyone who has already signed our petition!), the obvious question is: what are the alternatives for the whales and dolphins in captivity at SeaWorld parks?

One of the most talked about solutions these days for captive whales and dolphins (and there are over 3,000 of them around the world!) is sanctuaries. While there are currently no permanent sanctuaries for whales and dolphins, there are several efforts underway to create them.

WDC’s vision of a sanctuary for captive whales and dolphins is a place where individuals are assessed and prepared for a return to the wild or where they are offered the chance to retire and live out the remainder of their lives in a large, safe enclosure in a natural cove or bay, protected from storms and pollution. Once in the sanctuary, their individual health and welfare needs are taken care of but they have greater choice over their daily lives. Natural behaviour is encouraged, they are not required to perform in shows and public observation is strictly controlled or takes place from a distance.

WDC is working with Merlin Entertainments to establish sanctuaries for bottlenose dolphins and beluga whales. It’s a long and complicated process to find the right site. Sanctuaries need to offer space and protection in clean waters of the right temperature while, ideally, being accessible to visitors so they can support the sanctuary financially, learn about the benefits of sanctuaries and spread the word. It also takes time to secure the necessary financial, political and community support.

WDC is also part of an expert advisory panel focused on the establishment of a sanctuary in North America and we are supporting efforts to develop a sanctuary in Italy.

SeaWorld has been openly critical of sanctuaries, at least for the orcas it holds in captivity. But other facilities in North America are making very progressive, welcome steps to establish sanctuaries for the individuals they hold. In June, the National Aquarium in Baltimore announced that it was pursuing the development of a sanctuary for the dolphins at the aquarium.

SeaWorld could play an important role in the development of sanctuaries for whales and dolphins by supporting the transfer of the individuals it currently keeps in captivity to purpose built enclosures in natural waters. It’s the only real future for the whale and dolphin public display industry. Visitors could still see the whale and dolphin inhabitants, but under more natural conditions and with a dedicated education programme telling the real story about why they are there. Conservation and research could finally be an important part of public display and the whale and dolphin individuals held there or rehabilitated for release could live more enriched, perhaps even longer, lives.

SeaWorld has recently announced that it wants to expand away from only offering animal entertainment and even that it is looking at virtual reality technology as an alternative for some species.

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual and the captives remain in their tanks. We are asking British Airways to end its relationship with SeaWorld while the status quo remains. Please join us by signing our petition so we can achieve a similar commitment from SeaWorld to end orca breeding and shows for the other whales and dolphins it holds in its tanks and move them towards alternative solutions such as sanctuaries. Many thanks for all your support.