Conservation society against dolphinarium

The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society has released a statement made by the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), the leading international charity dedicated solely to the worldwide conservation and welfare of all cetaceans.

In its statement, WDCS fully supports the stand GONHS has made on the proposals for a dolphinarium in Gibraltar. It stresses also the fact that using captive bred dolphins, even if these were available, is not an acceptable option.

GONHS maintains that many of the issues that relate to wild dolphins apply also to captive bred ones. Commercial use is not an accepted criterion for breeding dolphins in captivity. Moreover, even if enough captive bred ones were available to supply Gibraltar, this would leave gaps in other dolphinaria that would ultimately have to be filled from the wild. By creating an increased demand for captive dolphins, the wild-caught dolphin "market" would be fueled, and so Gibraltar would be directly responsible for encouraging this despicable activity.

STATEMENT BY THE WHALE & DOLPHIN CONSERVATION SOCIETY

WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, is very concerned about the proposal to establish a dolphinarium at Rosia Bay in Gibraltar.

Dolphins are highly intelligent, free-ranging carnivores who suffer greatly from the effects of confinement and as a result suffer from stress, breeding problems and premature death as well as behavioural problems that can result in aggression between themselves and towards humans. This is important given the proposal to include a swimming with dolphins programme at Rosia Bay. While dolphinariums may claim they are important for education, we believe that seeing whales and dolphins in captivity can be miseducational, with educational messages taking second place to entertainment in circus-style performances and up-close encounters, where visitors' desire for interaction appears to override any educational benefit.

We are concerned that wild-caught dolphins will be imported to Gibraltar for the Rosia Bay development. Currently, captures of wild dolphins take place in Japanese, Solomon Islands, Cuban and Russian Federation waters. These captures are of serious concern to the scientific community and none of these countries are in a position to make non-detriment findings for the export of captured animals, as required by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. In Japan, dolphins are captured in drive hunts, a particularly cruel form of hunting in which pods of dolphins are rounded up out at sea and driven towards the shore where some are selected for aquariums and the rest slaughtered for meat. These hunts have been condemned by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which has called on its members not to source from them. Furthermore, imports of dolphins into the European Union are prohibited under EU CITES legislation for primarily commercial purposes. A dolphinarium, displaying animals to the public and charging an admission fee, would constitute a primarily commercial purpose.

Captive-born dolphins are still wild animals. In the wild these animals can travel 40 to 100 kilometres a day, they have intricate social structures and are highly intelligent. Some species have been found to have developed 'culture', in the passing down through the generations of specialised behaviour and adaptations to their environment. However, in captivity they are forced into relative idleness in an artificial environment where their behaviour is controlled and subdued by humans.

They are made to interact with species and individuals they would normally avoid in the wild which can induce ulcers and other illnesses and cause stress, discomfort, boredom, a weakened immune system and premature death. It can also provoke aggression between them, often leading to injuries and death. Such displays of aggression may also occur between dolphins and human visitors or trainers. The captive environment cannot accommodate the mental, physical and social needs of these animals and also fails to demonstrate their natural behaviour, complex lives, and the natural environment they inhabit. Despite the so called comforts of captivity and the food and veterinary care provided, many captives, including those born in captivity, die long before their wild counterparts. Furthermore, while the captive dolphin population remains unsustainable around the world, an import of dolphins from another dolphinarium may well result in further captures to restock the exporting dolphinarium.

Rosia Bay does not appear to be a suitable environment for the keeping of dolphins in captivity. The Straits of Gibraltar are renowned for their strong winds and currents and is the second busiest shipping lane in the world. The area is heavily industrialized and has been subject to morbillivirus epidemics among local wild dolphin populations in recent years.

Other countries, including Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica and Croatia have recently taken steps to safeguard the future of cetaceans threatened by live captures and confinement in captivity by implementing prohibitions on capture, trade and captivity of these animals. We believe these are the right steps to take to conserve and protect the world's whales and dolphins and that the Gibraltar authorities will be greatly praised throughout the conservation and scientific community for implementing such protective measures. Gibraltar is a popular destination for wild whale and dolphin watching. There is no need for Gibraltar to establish a dolphinarium and risk the conservation and welfare problems it would cause.

13-07-10



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