Dolphins held in captivity - Greece

Greece has one dolphinarium, Attica Zoological Park, currently located near Athens with a reported 12 bottlenose dolphins held there.

The Zoological Park has been under scrutiny since they first received bottlenose dolphins in 2010. Eleven of the twelve bottlenose dolphins in the zoo were imported from the Lithuanian Sea Museum in 2010 whilst the museum underwent reconstruction. The dolphins were imported into Athens without the correct permits and without permission from the Greek government. The dolphinarium constructed by the zoo to house the imported dolphins was never given planning permission to build. The Attica Zoological Park also claims all of the dolphins kept at their zoo were born at the Lithuanian Sea Museum, this claim is incorrect as three of the older dolphins from Lithuania were wild-caught from the Black Sea.

In April 2011, the Greek Green Party announced a court in Athens issued the Attica Zoological Park with a temporary order prohibiting dolphin shows and operation of the zoo’s dolphinarium. The Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Work also fined the zoo over €1.5 million for building the dolphinarium without permits. However, the Attica Zoo still holds these 11 bottlenose dolphins and is still using them in entertainment shows, which the zoo calls “educational presentations”. Evidence suggests that these presentations are not of educational standards as the dolphins are trained to perform completely unnatural behaviours for entertainment purposes. Recently on August, 7th 2011 the Attica Zoo reported the first bottlenose dolphin calf born at the zoo, bringing the total bottlenose dolphins held at the dolphinarium to 12.

Greece is a popular tourist destination and has many locations along the mainland’s shoreline and Greek islands where alternatives to seeing dolphins in captivity are abundant. There are a large number of trips operating from the Greek islands into the Ionian and Aegean seas where there are opportunities to see striped, short-beaked common and bottlenose dolphins. Off the southern mainland of Greece the waters are very deep, giving rise to sightings of sperm whales and Cuvier’s beaked whales.

Greece is Party to ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area) a cooperative inter-governmental agreement for the conservation of marine biodiversity in the Mediterranean and Black seas. Greek dolphinaria are included in the national zoo law but there are no specific standards for the keeping of dolphins in captivity in the country.