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Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
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,...

Increasing the size of orca tanks sounds like a good idea, but…



(The statement below was excerpted from WDC’s official letter to the California Coastal Commission)

WDC encourages the California Coastal Commission to deny the coastal development permit sought by SeaWorld for its Blue World orca tank expansion project. We believe that what are relatively marginal increases in orca habitat (in comparison to an ocean environment) will not rectify the fundamental problems associated with the confinement of whales and dolphins in artificial environments.

In captivity, social structures are vastly different than those in wild populations. Individuals who would never naturally come across one another in the wild are forced into close proximity, which can lead to stress, aggression between individuals,  and injury. Marginally deeper or larger pools will do little to mitigate these concerns, particularly if the intent is to increase the numbers of whales kept in these tanks by encouraging an active breeding program, which could ultimately leave a growing captive orca population with even less space than they have now.

In the wild, whales and dolphins form complex societies that are based on kinship. Some species retain family bonds for life. In some orca populations family ties are so persistent and well-defined that all family members are usually within a four-kilometer radius of one another at all times. Captive facilities, with their logistical constraints and space limitations, cannot provide conditions that allow natural social structures to form. In captivity, social groups are wholly artificial. Facilities mix individuals from Atlantic and Pacific populations, unrelated animals, and, in the case of orcas, races (transient and resident), which have disparate diets, habits, and social structures.

The Blue World Project does not propose to eliminate the display of whales and dolphins to visitors in circus-style shows, which bear no resemblance to the natural behavior of these animals. These orcas still have no means of escape from one another, their trainers or the viewing public. Also, the Blue World Project does not prevent the practice of separating calves from their mothers at a young age or prematurely impregnating young orcas as part of their breeding programs.

It is noteworthy that SeaWorld’s Blue World Project only addresses the habitats of the orcas it holds in captivity. All cetaceans, whether orcas, bottlenose dolphins or belugas at SeaWorld’s facilities possess the same physiological and behavioral requirements that can only be met through the great depths and expanses provided by an ocean realm.  We find it telling that SeaWorld has only chosen to focus its attention to remedy its inadequate tanks for the orcas it holds.  This response to recent public attention and scrutiny resulting from the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau and the movie Blackfish, among other developments, suggests Blue Worl Project may also serve as a public relations maneuver rather than a true effort to improve the lives of the individuals confined to their parks.

infographic on captivity