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Dolphinaris Dolphins Out of the Frying Pan, Into…

| By Mark J. Palmer, International Marine Mammal Project
Topics: Captivity Industry, Dolphins, Sanctuaries

Dolphinaris of Arizona has reportedly removed all four remaining dolphins in their facility, after the tragic deaths of four other bottlenose dolphins over the 2 years that the facility has been open.  Dolphinaris has further now announced that they will not re-open with any dolphins.   Likely, Dolphinaris will become some kind of human water park.     

The captive dolphins are technically under the protection of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) with the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) holding jurisdiction.  Yet, APHIS allowed Dolphinaris to open in the first place in 2016 and reportedly conducted four inspections of Dolphinaris, without finding any objectionable conditions.

This is, unfortunately, typical of APHIS, which provides only minimal regulations for dolphinariums and has delayed regulations for more than twelve years for swim-with-dolphins facilities in the US. 

The new location for the Dolphinaris dolphins is a new facility called Coral World Ocean Park located in Water Bay on the island of St. Thomas, part of the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. 

Environmentalists have noted with alarm that the sea pens in Water Bay are small and that water circulation is a major problem.  Photos taken from the air shortly after rainfall has shown the bay completely inundated with clouded water from storm run-off.  There are claims that bacterial counts are high in the bay due to poor circulation.  The Coral World Ocean Park sea pens should never have been placed in this location.

AZ Central reports that: “Weekly reports since late September show that seven out of the 19 times that water at Water Bay was analyzed, the sample was found to have levels of bacteria that made it unsafe for swimming or fishing.” 

The International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) of Earth Island Institute supports retirement of dolphins from small concrete tanks to seaside sanctuaries that provide a large expanse of water with good circulation for cetaceans, but the location of such sea sanctuaries is critical – water circulation must be sufficient to keep the sea pens clean of pollutants.  We condemn the opening of Coral World Ocean Park and the moving of these four dolphins to Water Bay.  They have gone from the frying pan of Dolphinaris Arizona to the fire of Coral World Ocean Park in St. Thomas.

Furthermore, Coral World Ocean Park is not a sanctuary – it is a for-profit swim-with-dolphins facility that will make these four dolphins work for food, day in and day out, interacting with (and often being abused by) tourists. 

As St. Thomas is under US jurisdiction, APHIS has a chance to live up to public expectations and open an investigation into the adequacy of the Coral World Ocean Park for dolphins.   

APHIS should also be investigating Dolphinaris for violation of the MMPA in the deaths of the four dolphins.  They have told reporters that they have not yet opened an investigation.  This is unacceptable. 



(Action Alert)

Please contact APHIS and urge them to inspect the Coral World Ocean Park in Water Bay, St. Thomas, part of the Virgin Islands.  The Dolphinaris dolphins are in an inadequate sea pen with reportedly high bacteria count and poor water circulation.  These dolphins deserve better!

Write to:

Mr. Gregory Ibach, Under Secretary                                              

US Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service

US Department of Agriculture

4700 River Road

Riverdale, MD  20737

EMAIL:  APHIS Animal Welfare Office:

Phone APHIS Customer Service Line:  1-844-820-2234

 Phone Animal Welfare Office:        Phone: (970) 494-7478 
                                                            Fax: (970) 494-7461


Thank you for your support for the dolphins!



Help IMMP fight for the freedom of Dolphins with a Donation!  Captive dolphins do NOT belong in small concrete tanks or small polluted sea pens.