And what we can do about it.
Have you ever wondered how dolphins and other whales end up in marine parks and aquariums? Were they bred specifically for captivity? Were they wild-caught? Are they living in their family pods, or have they been separated? Are they truly living at all?
A popular argument used by the marine entertainment industry is that they are providing “educational opportunities” for patrons to learn more about these aquatic mammals. That people will become more sympathetic to their wild plights, by getting “up close and personal” to the dolphins. That they are truly “ambassadors of the sea” and are amazing and are worthy of our protection.
And that’s where any justification for keeping these sentient beings falls apart.
Dolphins in captivity don’t behave like their wild counterparts. It’s simply not possible, given their confined space and lack of choice regarding all aspects of their lives. Captive dolphins cannot explore and navigate the seas, develop familial and friendship bonds, practice avoidance tactics against predators, engage in hunting skills, or constantly hone their decision-making expertise.
Instead, dolphins chosen for the captivity industry, whether captive-bred, or wild-caught are there for profit. They are there to generate revenues. And herein lies the problem: marine parks and aquariums, in their present business model, are dependent on their exhibits to stay afloat, so to speak.
Is an ethical solution within reach that would cater to both the needs of the industry, and the mammals? Is building such a bridge possible, so that we can truly appreciate wildlife, instead of exploiting it? Can the anti-captivity movement and the marine park industry find a common path that ultimately leads to the welfare of the mammals? Not just survivability, but “thrive-ability” as well.
As we ourselves, evolve, isn’t it time to rethink our relationship with captive dolphins and other whales? Only then, when we’re ready to acknowledge the mistakes we’ve made concerning their incarceration can we focus on righting those wrongs, and moving forward in earnest.
Featured image: Superpod of Common Dolphins, San Diego, Credit: Rachel Yung / YouTube (Screenshot)