On May 7, France made the ‘bombshell’ announcement to phase out captivity for dolphins and orcas permanently. It is a move that is in line with the rising tide of public awareness that recognizes the cruelty inherent in the captive dolphin industry – something that SeaWorld continues to willfully ignore.
The new legislation bans the keeping of any cetaceans captive, the ultimate goal being to rid their nation of this archaic industry. For those unfortunate cetacean individuals who are already “serving” life sentences at facilities such as Marineland Antibes, the legislation stipulates that no captive breeding is to be done, that there be no direct contact between the cetaceans and humans, ending swim-with-dolphins programs, and requires that the pools be made “significantly larger”. Facilities are given up to three years to comply with the new rules.
France joins a long and growing list of countries that ban cetacean captivity, and many facilities, within nations that have not yet ended captivity, are phasing out their cetacean exhibits, such as the Baltimore Aquarium, the Vancouver Aquarium, and the Barcelona Aquarium.
The biggest holdout is SeaWorld. Despite pledging to phase out their orca breeding and circus-like shows just ahead of a law that would have forced them to do so in California – something that earned SeaWorld a lot of misplaced praise – SeaWorld continues to double-down on exploitation of other cetacean species. Their San Antonio facility recently opened a massive swim-with experience that even includes beluga whales along with dolphins, and there remain important questions as to the breeding programs for other dolphin species they hold captive.
David Phillips, Director of EII’s International Marine Mammal Project called the announcement a “crucial recognition that the breeding ban must include all orcas and other dolphins. SeaWorld is desperately holding onto the myth that ending orca breeding solves all their public relations problems. But it won’t work.”
“Orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family. Orcas are dolphins. It is similarly cruel and abusive to hold orcas and all other dolphins in concrete tanks,” continued Phillips. “All dolphin breeding must be ended, and dolphins of all sizes must be retired to seaside sanctuaries or, when feasible, be returned to the wild. The France edict is more proof that it is time for SeaWorld to wake up to this reality.”
SeaWorld seems to be betting that the public will see nothing wrong with cetacean captivity at long as it does not involve orca whales. But they are constantly being proven wrong: in a statement issued Tuesday, the company revealed that their attendance and revenue plunged more than 15 percent in the first quarter, translating into a $61 million dollar loss. The terrible performance of the company, ever since the shocking documentary Blackfish hit theaters and air waves, should be a plain indication that they ought to get out of the cetacean-torturing business. But apparently, even their $61 million dollar-loss is not enough incentive for them to consider retirement options, the likes of which are being proposed by the Whale Sanctuary Project in cooperation with the International Marine Mammal Project and other groups.
SeaWorld continues to greedily hold onto their whopping 176 cetaceans – including bottlenose dolphins, belugas, pilot whales, orcas and others – instead of considering what people, and the cetaceans themselves, might want.