I’ll Never Swim with Dolphins

This spring I travelled south to Mexico to be in a friend’s wedding. It. Was. Fabulous. The beaches, the sun, the food, the friends- it all added up to an amazing vacation.

In addition to the wedding events, the hosting resort also offered a number of fun excursions and on-site activities, including a Dolphinarium. Although the new Dolphinarium was apparently a huge draw to this particular resort, I couldn’t in good conscience partake in the experience.

My Facebook feed has actually hosted dozens of friends and family photos of their own dolphin swimming experiences from their various tropical vacations and I’ll admit: it looks rad. Dolphins are incredible creatures and it seems like fairy tale-fun to actually be able to join them in the water, receiving kisses and having them propel you around the… tank.

The Dolphinarium at my resort didn’t use a tank per se. It was more of a netted barricade off a pier in the ocean. Apparently “dolphins don’t need that much space” and “they enjoy being together in that environment.”

Yeah. I remain skeptical.

Image from the Blackfish movie website. (http://blackfishmovie.com/stills)
Image from the Blackfish movie website. (http://blackfishmovie.com/stills)

The new documentary Blackfish, which exposes a tragedy at SeaWorld, is raising eyebrows and awareness about the issues of holding sea creatures in captivity for our entertainment. All I keep thinking is “Um, hello? Am I the only one who remembers Free Willy?” That movie scarred me for life. Don’t you guys remember the ending? His hump never goes back to normal! We ruined it forever.

*Immense sadness.*

Since growing up in a small town in Southern Ontario, I, like just about every person in Niagara, can still sing the theme song for Marineland. It was a popular spot for the elementary school’s end-of-year trip and the shows and rides were tonnes of fun when I was little. Yet by the time I saw Free Willy in grade four, I was mature enough to question the issues and decide that it wasn’t a place I was interested in visiting again. And when my family had a Florida vacation when I was in grade nine, SeaWorld didn’t make the agenda. However, on a spring break trip to Chicago a few years ago, my pals convinced me to go to the Shedd Aquarium. Though I was reluctant, I tried to enjoy the experience by focusing on Shedd’s education and conservation efforts.

For the record, I fully support rehabilitative facilities for animals. I even support teaching and research zoos and aquatic centres. I’m clearly not an expert on the needs of animals and don’t claim to be. What I can’t get behind is the pure entertainment aspect.

Can someone please explain to me how it’s okay? Because I don’t get it.

Further Reading:

India bans captive dolphin shows, says dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’

SeaWorld Is Scared Blackfish Will Make You Never Want to Visit Again

10 thoughts on “I’ll Never Swim with Dolphins

  1. Trying to figure out what to do with large animals at zoo’s and aquariums is a really difficult subject. The cold hard truth really may be creatures like dolphins, whales, and elephants to name a few are just too big for the zoo, no matter how fun/educational it is to see them.

  2. It is difficult, and it certainly doesn’t help that we’re destroying their natural habitats more and more as well- making it harder to justify returning them to their homes. I can see the appeal of the fun aspects, but I just don’t think the fun outweighs the sacrifices we force the animals to make.

  3. It is becoming more and more known how intelligent, social and emotive whales and dolphins are (not that it means less “intelligent” creatures don’t deserve ethical treatment). I can’t get behind these animals in captivity for entertainment purposes either. For years I wouldn’t go to my local aquarium (the Vancouver Aquarium). Over time, however, they morphed into a very (to my mind) ethical, education and rescue related organization. They promote OceanWise seafood for grocery stores and restaurants to sell, rescue and release as many animals as they can, and education is a major focus.

    We had the opportunity to go to SeaWorld on a recent trip to Southern California and I just couldn’t go.

  4. I love rescue and release programs, Christie! I visited a sea turtle rescue in Mexico that had the policy of releasing their turtles (many of whom were babies) after a period of six months. It was great.

  5. The Vancouver Aquarium is the WORST! They have the tiniest tank that they squish the belugas in and it breaks my heart. I felt ill after going there. And we wonder why these animals are dying in captivity? Oh god. This movie looks amazing and I can’t wait to see it. It’s preaching to the choir for me but I hope that other people have the chance to see it that haven’t been affected by these issues like we have. I can definitely sing the Marineland theme song for you, any time! Never been and never will go though. Catchy tune.

  6. 😦 I’m on the fence about seeing the movie because I know that it is going to upset me. There’s no question about it. At the same time, I want to be aware/stay informed. I’m torn. Like I said, I still scarred from Free Willy… but I’m a wimp. lol

  7. I know the Monterey Bay Aquarium (near me) has grapped with these issues. I think the large animals are where you definitely run into issues. I think they used to have a Great White Shark but no longer do, partly b/c CA classified them as endangered or threatened. I love aquariums, but haven’t taken any of my kids to a zoo. Probably will eventually, but they just aren’t so appealing to me anymore. We watch lots of nature documentaries instead : )

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