Captivity Frequently Asked Questions

dolphin captivity faq

There are a number of concerning issues when it comes to dolphin and whale captivity. With so many marine parks and aquariums using terms like “rescue” or “research” there is a level of confusion among consumers. The following are some of the most common questions we’ve received about dolphin captivity. More information about captivity issues is available on our Facts About Captivity page.

Where do captive dolphins come from?

Many marine parks and aquariums utilize artificial insemination to breed captive cetaceans in order to keep their tanks full. Parks that are not able to breed their captive dolphins and whales may also resort to purchasing wild-captured dolphins from gruesome dolphin drive hunts.

Aren't most captive dolphins rescued?

Some captive dolphin facilities do act as responders for wildlife strandings and offer rescue services. However, data from marine mammal inventory reports show that most captive dolphins are actually bred and not rescued. In reality, the instances of rescue are very low, and most of their efforts are devoted to their profit-making business.

Can captive dolphins return to the ocean?

All captive dolphins are candidates for retirement in natural sea sanctuaries near their home range. Depending on several factors, some captive dolphins may also be candidates for readaptation and release. Read more about our retirement and release cases on our sanctuary campaign page!

Aren’t dolphins safer in captivity than in the wild? There’s so much pollution in the ocean.

While there are threats in the wild, the vast majority of oceanic dolphin species are not endangered and we are working to keep it that way!
On the other hand, captive dolphins face a great deal of concerning issues. A quick look through the Marine Mammal Inventory Report will show you very concerning and self-reported causes of death dolphins have endured in marine park including foreign object ingestion, drowning, killed by another dolphin, food poisoning, jumped out of tank. We also have to consider quality of life. One could argue that humans would be a lot safer in a prison cell or even never leaving their house than they would be if they went outside to face car accidents, shootings, terrorism, pollution, etc., yet we still leave our house every day and take the risk.

What's the difference between a sanctuary and a marine park?

Based on inquiries we have received, it appears there is confusion about facilities that list themselves as “sanctuaries” yet keep dolphins for display and interactive programs. We’ve compiled some tips here to help potential customers research before they support a captive dolphin facility here.

Don't marine parks do some good work?

Some marine parks participate in rescue work and education on conservation issues such as marine pollution and overfishing. These are commendable, but they do not justify displaying cetaceans captive for entertainment purposes. With the technology available today, there are endless possibilities for cruelty-free attractions, experiences and rides that can engage and entertain park guests, and in turn continue to fund rescue and education efforts. 

How will we learn about dolphins if we don’t study captive ones?

Much of the research being done on captive dolphins is actually husbandry research. This type of research is aimed at learning how to better keep, breed, and care for captive dolphins, not their wild counterparts. Dolphins’ behavior is also altered when being forced to live in a captive environment, making it difficult to apply many findings to wild dolphins. Every behavior performed by a captive dolphin is affected by its surroundings, so we don’t learn much about actual dolphin behavior, and it doesn’t teach us anything about how we can protect them in the wild.

Is connecting with a captive dolphin in person necessary to inspire conservation?

No. Conservation can be inspired through the power of films, documentaries, photographs, artwork or seeing whales and dolphins on an eco-tour in their natural habitat, on their terms. Promoting activities with captive dolphins such as feeding and touching, and watching them perform tricks actually teaches people to disrespect wildlife. This type of close contact promotes the idea that dolphins “want” to be touched or fed. Sadly this has led to people seeking to do so with wild dolphins, which is harmful and upsets the natural behavior, diet and rest that wild dolphins need.

Are there any dolphin facilities that are ok to visit?

Unfortunately many marine parks advertise themselves with terms such as “sanctuary” or “rescue” which causes confusion among consumers. Any facility that promotes captive dolphin photo opportunities, interaction programs and other commercialized opportunities should be cause for concern. True sanctuaries are few and far between- a true sanctuary is a place where non-releasable dolphins can live out their lives with peace and dignity, in an environment that is as natural as possible with no shows, no loud music and limited interaction with visitors. Learn more on our Sanctuary, or Marine Park? page.

RELATED READING

HOW YOU CAN HELP PROTECT DOLPHINS

Learn more about dolphin captivity
CAPTIVITY FACTS

Learn the facts about dolphin and whale captivity and help spread the word.

dolphin icon
PLEDGE

Join the pod and take the pledge to NOT buy a ticket to dolphins captive facilities!

Camera Icon
SUBMIT A TIP

Have concerning photos or footage of captive dolphins? Submit them for our team to investigate.

Take Action Icon
TAKE ACTION

Sign petitions, contact authorities and take action to help protect dolphins.

dolphin donate heart icon
SUPPORT

Explore giving options to help support our mission to protect dolphins from exploitation and slaughter.

Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible as authorized by law.

© 2020 Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project. All Rights Reserved.


171 Pier Ave. #234
Santa Monica, CA 90405