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Bottlenose dolphins © Christopher Swann

On the anniversary of the massacre of 1,423 dolphins, what’s changed?

One year ago today, 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins, including mothers with calves and pregnant females,...
Sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) Gulf of California. The tail of a sperm whale.

To protect whales, we must stop ignoring the high seas

Almost two-thirds of the ocean, or 95% of the habitable space on Earth, are sloshing...
A dolphin plays in front of the WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay

Sharing our Spey Bay stories – tell us yours

2022 is Scotland's Year of Stories, a year in which stories inspired by, created or...
Orcas in Australia

Did orcas help rescue entangled humpback whale?

Kidzone - quick links Fun Facts Our Goals Curious kids Kids blogs Fantastic fundraisers Gallery...
An orca named 'Hulk' off Caithness, Scotland

My amazing week watching orcas in Scotland

Orca Watch's 10th anniversary event in the far north of Scotland was exhilarating with a...

Faroes dolphin hunt review – disappointing is an understatement

I wasn't alone in hoping that substantial changes would be made as a result of...
Minke whale - V Mignon

We told them this would happen! Time to halt cruel whale experiments

An ill-conceived and so far ill-fated joint US/ Norwegian experiment to test minke whales' reaction...
Sponging dolphin in Shark Bay

Dolphins who catch fish with shells

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Process fails dolphins in Bruges

On 30th January, Belgium’s Animal Welfare Board announced the results of many months of deliberation by a dolphin working group established in 2011 to look at existing standards for captive dolphins in Belgium. There is one dolphinarium in Belgium in Bruges, Boudewijn SeaPark, which currently holds six bottlenose dolphins in captivity for shows and interaction programmes.

As noted in the Board’s press release, the published opinion of the group reflects a compromise between those involved, which included animal welfare organisations and dolphinarium industry representatives. Two of those groups, however, Planète Vie and Sea First Foundation, felt unable to endorse the group’s opinion, in spite of the time and commitment they had given the group’s work and WDC can understand why.

The dolphin working group’s recommendations fail to recognise welfare problems such as stress or stereotypic behaviour as problems for captive dolphins, in spite of evidence to the contrary, including that obtained through observations of the dolphins held in Bruges. Furthermore, they appear to offer nothing that would contribute to dolphin health and welfare beyond recommending that measures are taken to bring the dolphinarium in line with Belgian law on dolphinarium pool size and the EU Zoos Directive, including a varied, enriched environment (although the captive environment can never mirror the diversity bottlenose dolphins would experience in the wild), the establishment of an education programme and participation in scientific research, suggesting the facility is currently in breach of national and EU law. Their focus appears to be on satisfying the demands of the public on dolphin captivity rather than improvements in dolphin health and welfare. Perhaps luckily, public opinion is shifting away from supporting facilities like Boudewijn Park. A petition has been developed calling on the relevant Belgian Minister not to support the group’s recommendations and to develop strict legislation on dolphin captivity.

WDC continues to call on countries like Belgium to develop legislation to phase out dolphin captivity, including by prohibiting the development of further dolphinaria and the import of further dolphins.

 

About Cathy Williamson

Cathy Williamson was policy manager of our End Captivity Programme until July 2021.