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End Captivity

Capturing and keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is deplorable. They are highly intelligent. They live in complex societies. But they are taken from their homes, separated from their families and confined for human ‘entertainment’.

Morgan, held in captivity at Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain.
Morgan, held in captivity at Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain.


Even though captive whales and dolphins are kept in an environment free of predators, pollution and other threats, they die young.

Around 3,000 whales and dolphins are held in aquaria, zoos and marine parks globally. Help us create a better future for these amazing, intelligent creatures.

WDC is working on three key areas that we believe will ultimately bring an end to this cruel practice.


1. Creating sea sanctuaries where whales and dolphins held in captivity can be relocated to live more natural lives if they cannot be returned to the wild

  • working with Merlin Entertainments on a project to rehabilitate and retire captive belugas to a natural sea pen
  • providing expert advice on other potential sanctuaries around the globe

2. Stopping the supply of whales and dolphins to captive facilities

  • stopping airlines transporting whales and dolphins from Japanese drive hunts to cut the supply of whales and dolphins to parks  
  • pressuring governments to ban the capture of wild whales and dolphins for display 
  • exposing welfare issues and cruelty associated with breeding in captivity 

3. Ending demand for whale and dolphins shows

  • Campaigning to stop tour operators and cruise companies promoting trips to captivity shows
  • Working with local groups and individuals in countries where new facilities are being built to raise awareness and change attitudes and stem the development of such facilities

WDC has been campaigning against keeping whales and dolphins in captivity for 30 years. Some recent successes include:

  • Working with the Indian government, we helped secure a national ban on keeping whales and dolphins in captivity
  • Through our campaigns work, Virgin has committed to secure from its partners a pledge to no longer take whales and dolphins from the ocean
  • Helped prevent the import of wild caught beluga whales into the US


  • £/$ 100 can help us investigate and expose the brutal capture and sale of whales and dolphins from the wild  
  • £/$ 50 can help us to challenge UK tour operators who continue to sell holidays to captive facilities such as SeaWorld
  • £/$ 25 can help us to share our expertise in establishing sanctuaries to enable more captive whales and dolphins to be moved to more natural settings, or back to the wild, if possible
  • £/$10 can help us investigate conditions in captive facilities and make a case to governments that they should phase out this practice



Cathy Williamson leads WDC's international End Captivity team. Cathy is a leading expert in whale and dolphin captivity, live captures and trade. She has a background in environmental science and policy and has headed WDC's End Captivity programme for nearly two decades. Cathy started campaigning on behalf of whales and dolphins at the age of 11 when she wrote to the government of the Faroe Islands asking them to stop the pilot whale slaughter.