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Dolphins captured for captivity in Taiji. Image: Hans Peter Roth

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The infamous killing cove at Taiji, Japan

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Image: Peter Linforth

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Will Carnival follow Thomas Cook and drop cruel dolphin ‘attractions’?

You may remember that at the end of June, WDC was invited to Miami to present to senior executives at the Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise company. We used the opportunity to highlight the serious welfare concerns we have for the dolphins that are made to perform for cruise ship passengers in various ‘swim-with’ programmes throughout the Caribbean and Mexico.

We had a positive reception from Carnival as we got your message across that whales and dolphins are just totally unsuitable for life in a tank. We presented the research that proves just how cruel these often overcrowded, shallow facilities can be for these most social and sentient creatures.

The timing of our meeting couldn’t have been better as the previous day I’d been in London for the launch of the world’s first whale sanctuary – the natural sea pen home that the SEALIFE Trust is creating, in partnership with WDC, for two captive beluga whales. With the launch of our sanctuary, the solution that has been talked about for so long is finally becoming a reality. Sanctuaries are much-needed places where ex-captive whales and dolphins can be retired to open water ocean pens. Some individuals may even be suitable for release. We discussed our plans and our vision and invited Carnival to get involved with supporting these initiatives.

Carnival is a huge player in the cruise ship industry and operates ten different brands, including household names such as P&O Cruises and Cunard.  When we knew we had a seat at ‘the top table’, we weren’t going to miss our opportunity to drive your message home. But we are realistic enough to know that change won’t come overnight, and so our approach is one of evolution rather than revolution. Carnival’s influence is huge in the industry and where they go in terms of policy and responsible tourism surely others will follow?

Carnival has agreed to expedite the audit of all the marine parks and swim-with-the-dolphins ‘attractions’ it works with and this is very much at ‘first steps’ stage. Some of the things we urged Carnival to consider when it reviews the audit results include a pledge not to take on any new suppliers, a commitment not to work with any facility that continues to source dolphins from the wild and also for Carnival to make a public statement in support of sanctuaries for the retirement and/or release of ex-captive dolphins.

Some of these important milestones are in line with what you’ve already helped us achieve when we’ve influenced the policy decisions of other tour operators such as Thomas Cook and Virgin Holidays.

We’ll follow up with Carnival on the meeting later this summer and Carnival’s audits should be complete by the end of 2018. We will keep you up-to-date with any and all developments as we encourage Carnival to do the right thing and implement meaningful welfare policy to significantly improve the lives of the dolphins held in the facilities it promotes, with a view to eventually phasing out its support of captive dolphin ‘attractions’ altogether.