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Humpback whale underwater

Climate giants – how whales can help save the world

We know that whales, dolphins and porpoises are amazing beings with complex social and family...
Black Sea common dolphins © Elena Gladilina

The dolphin and porpoise casualties of the war in Ukraine

Rare, threatened subspecies of dolphins and porpoises live in the Black Sea along Ukraine's coast....
WDC's Ed Fox, Chris Butler-Stroud and Carla Boreham take a message from the ocean to parliament

Taking a message from the ocean to parliament

It's a sad fact that whales and dolphins don't vote in human elections, but I...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Tokitae in captivity

Talking to TUI – will they stop supporting whale and dolphin captivity?

Last Thursday I travelled to Berlin for a long-anticipated meeting with TUI senior executives. I...

Earth Day Q&A with Waipapa Bay Wines’ marketing director, Fran Draper

We've been partnered with Waipapa Bay Wines since 2019 so for this year's Earth Day,...
Orcas at the seabed

The secrets of orca beach life

Rubbing on smooth pebbles is a generations-old cultural tradition for a particular group of orcas...

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.