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Tortured, killed and captivated
What drives a person to commit an unethical act like capturing, imprisoning, and even killing dolphins, just because they can make a little money doing it? Dolphin captivity is an issue that has been around for years, driven by secrecy from governments due to support from multi-million dollar water parks, aquariums, and traditions in certain countries. Laws and regulations are passed, but they are rarely enforced (even in first-world countries like Japan and the United States). For many years, people enjoy the entertainment of dolphins provided by aquatic entertainment businesses, without realizing that by watching and paying for these shows, they are indirectly supporting those businesses in doing more harm to those animals. Although dolphins are used for entertainment, education, and cultural traditions, they are still being held captive throughout the world.
Marine mammal captivity dates a while back; more than many think and more than what most marine parks lead the public to believe. Captivity is the condition of being imprisoned against one’s own will. Starting between the 1860s and 1870s, dolphins and beluga whales were being captured and shipped to aquariums in the United States and Europe. According to OneGreenPlanet organization; an organization that works to advocates animal rights , the time period from 1970 to 1980s, was known as “the wave of live-capture and export”. During this time, 307 whales were captured, thirteen died along the way, and fifty-five were sent to aquariums.
Taiji is a small town located in the Higashimuro District, southwestern Japan. It’s the number one city in the world where dolphin captivity occurs due to the fact that this city is on the Pacific Ocean . According to the National Geographic, “It’s the number one place in the world in which the killing and even slaughtering of dolphins occur”. Every year from September to March, fishermen gather in a cove-like area in the waters of Taiji and use high-speed boats to collect entire pods of dolphins. The “good looking” dolphins are captured and sold into captivity while the rest of the dolphins are brutally slaughtered for meat. In the cover story, There Will Be Blood by Newsweek Global, the author, Bill Powell explains that: “Matt Sorum, the former drummer for Guns N’ Roses, visited Taiji in September, and once there he tweeted that it was as if he was in a ‘bad nightmare,’ or watching an episode of The Twilight Zone.” The hunt has attracted global anger since 2009, when it was featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove, which portrayed how “fishermen collect 1,000 dolphins a year to sell to marine parks or kill for meat … the slaughter turns the cove red with blood” (National Geographic). In Taiji, it’s reported that starvation is very common. Being located on the southwestern coast of Japan ;where dolphins are highly populated,it was whale and dolphin meat that fulfilled the hunger of Taiji’s people. It is a ritual for the people of Taiji to eat dolphin and whale meat for optimal survival. This emphasizes how culture can be threatening to those intelligent creatures by being captured and killed for tradition.
There are few acts that work on protecting marine mammals. All marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) sets guidelines for the care of captive marine mammals. Those guidelines include space requirement (tank size), quality of the water, sanitation of environment, transportation, food quality, and veterinary care. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is a United States federal agency, responsible for the supervision of national marine resources.
Dolphin captivity should be put to an end. There are laws but they are rarely followed. According to World Animal Protection “There is a widespread belief that it is illegal to capture wild dolphins in the U.S. However, even though no permits have been granted for captures since 1989, it is still legal to capture dolphins.” According to OneGreenPlanet,one can easily obtain a high-ranked and certified fishing permit through the NMFS,which then enables them to capture and captivate dolphins—legally. Which means the the government is giving a legal right for those fishers to capture and perhaps kill those dolphins Unfortunately, the MMPA declared that the capture of wild dolphins and other marine mammals is acceptable as long as the person fishing has applied for and received a valid permit from the NMFS. A Valid or acceptable reasons to obtain a permit can easily be manipulated. The NMFS grants permits to capture wild dolphins for simple reasons like scientific research, accidental captures by fishermen, and photography. That’s the catch that prevents many marine parks and aquariums from being legally charged. That is, almost all marine parks and aquariums are open to the public, offer educational displays and programs,and have already obtained a permit from the NMFS for similar reasons. Moreover, the NMFS can easily be tricked by marine parks which causes permits be granted to marine parks when given the reason of scientific research or as ironic as it sounds— prevent captivity.
Critics like SeaWorld ,reportedly the world’s largest marine mammal parks, animal theme parks, and rehabilitation centers argue that marine mammals in their facilities are taken care of in the best ways possible.Trevor Long, the director of Marine Sciences at SeaWorld, replied “ ‘that is the greatest load of rubbish’ ” when given the claim that “SeaWorld has long been accused of only rescuing marine life so they can take them into captivity” (Gold Coast Bulletin). According to Long, the primary goal is to get animals released back into the wild after they are rehabilitated and the only time a marine animal is kept is when they are permanently disabled or too young to survive in the wild.
This problem could be fixed by teaming up with volunteer organizations and reaching out to authorities and animal rights activists regarding the issue. Together, we can make a difference by educating people about the issue and hopefully our voices will be heard louder and laws are made and enforced. According to data collected by the World Animal Protection, we can start by “urging the local representatives to support marine mammal legislation like AB-2140.” This legislation is passed in California only and took a while to be enforced. It states that it is:
“unlawful to hold in captivity, or use, a wild-caught or captive-bred orca, as
defined, for performance or entertainment purposes, as defined, to capture
in state waters, or import from another state, any orca intended to be used for
performance or entertainment purposes, to breed or impregnate an orca in
captivity, or to export, collect, or import from another state the semen, other
gametes, or embryos of an orca held in captivity for the purpose of artificial
insemination, except as provided.”
This bill applies to every person, corporation, and institution that violates those points. The punishment is a fee of $100,000 or imprisonment of six months in a county jail. According to OneGree Planet, the California representatives stated that “by creating a new crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program”. The simpler ways to help include not visiting marine parks that hold marine animals captive and signing pledges and petitions to your local representatives, and encouraging relatives to do the same.
According to Bill Powers in Newsweek, “Environmental and conservation groups-like those that campaign against whale and dolphin hunting, are aggressively trying to educate supporters on how to use social media to generate grassroots enthusiasm for their causes.” For example, an organization named Greenpeace, trained 180 staff around the world on its “Mobilization Lab” on using social media to raise awareness of what occurs in pro-captivity countries.
In conclusion, dolphin captivity is unethical. Separating dolphins from the natural rhythms of the sea: the tides, the currents, the blue environment makes dolphins the most stressed dolphins in captivity.
- Henn, Corrine. “How Did We Get Here? The Evolution of Whale and Dolphin Captivity in the U.S.” One Green Planet, Green Planet , 12 Feb. 2015,
- “U.S. Dolphin Regulations.” World Animal Protection USA, World Animal Protection Organization,
- Powell, Bill, et al. “#THERE WILL BE BLOOD. (Cover Story).” Newsweek Global, vol. 162, no. 13, 04 Apr. 2014, p. 1. EBSCOhost,
- Bale , Rachael . “First Dolphins Killed in Japan’s Notorious Hunt.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 12 Sept. 2016,
- Westthorp, Tanya. “The Truth about Sea World: Gold Coast Theme Park Reveals All and Answers Critics.” Gold Coast Bulletin , 9 Jan. 2015,
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