Swimming With Dolphins
So, YOU want to swim with dolphins?
Dolphins have become the new fashion, the new rock n roll stars of a consumer society that demands instant experiences and happiness. Dolphins have for long, been seen as "new age" mystical creatures that for unknown reasons in the wild, have sought out humans with an insatiable curiosity, despite what humans do to them. Dolphins have been slain by direct kills, by entanglement in nylon fishing nets, by capturing them and imprisoning them in dolphin shows and in "swim with programs" and by the military for use in wars. Their habitat has been polluted by the effluence of man made heavy industrial chemicals. They have died IN HUGE NUMBERS and the killing and the capturing still goes on.
In the 1960's the craze for "flipper" in captivity took hold and the dolphins became victims of a "captive industry." Because the dolphin looked to be smiling and happy, the captive spin doctors wove a web of lies and the public were deceived into believing that the dolphins were somehow happy performing banal tricks in small tanks, after being ruthless abducted from the ocean. Dolphin shows distort the very essence of what a dolphin should be, wild and free, one of the top predators in the oceans. Dolphins are primarily acoustic animals, they use sound waves to travel, communicate and predate. Deny them their highly developed use of sound to live and the animals are being intrinsically abused.
Following on from the traditional "entertainment," show, the captive industry decided more money could be made by offering the "swim with dolphin" experience. This experience claims to cure unhappiness, depression, be helpful to autistic children. Put a captive dolphin and an ill child together, spin how wonderful and therapeutic it is for the child and the ethics of keeping the dolphin prisoner, will go unquestioned by most people. The most blatant untruth is the claim by the "captivity industry" that they are teaching people to care and respect dolphins! Conduct a search on the internet for "swim with dolphins" and you will get over 100,000 hits, a substantial and lucrative business! It's all about money.
Swim with dolphins 1 day price per person £165; an ad. for Discovery Cove Orlando
Offer people, a seemingly exotic destination to Florida, the Caribbean or Mexico and a package experience of holiday and dolphin and large profits are guaranteed. Where do the dolphins come from to supply the captive swim with experience? They are brutally captured, using high speed boats and nets to separate them from their habitat and social group for ever.
To feed the business of tricks and swims:
In captivity dolphins die quicker, from a variety of illnesses some of which are stress induced. What must it be like for a large brained animal, confined in a small space conducting the same boring tricks every day until death? Having humans jumping in to your living space, grabbing at your fins to be pulled along, all day long, so their ego can be fed to say "I swam with a dolphin."
To keep the business alive, you need dolphins alive:
In July 2003, a business consortium, part of which operates dolphin swims at Parque Nizuc, at Cancun, Mexico, went to the Solomon Isles and paid local fishermen a few hundred dollars per dolphin, to capture around 200 dolphins. This is the largest capture operation ever by the "captivity industry." The dolphins should have been protected under the CITES convention (Convention in Trade Endangered Species) but as is so often the case, the way the treaty is written, it provided ample loopholes for a capture operation. The simple truth is without a market of tourists, dolphins wouldn't be captured to be exploited in captive shows or swim with programmes.
Hazards to Health
In their frantic pursuit of profits, the operators of petting pools and swim with programmes will not tell the participants that they risk a hazard not to just the dolphin's health but their OWN! Certain illnesses can be transmitted, such as salmonella from dolphins to humans. Add to this that there is also the possibility of being injured by one of natures the top predators. Due to the stress of being caged and the fact that they do not have an escape mechanism, dolphins have been known to butt and bite swimmers. A few years ago the US authorities suspended "swim with programs" because of concern to the health of dolphins and the injuries sustained by swimmers.
From a BBC news round poll; out of the mouth of babes, comes the truth!
"I think that it is horrific what happens to the dolphins and I think that they all should be set free for ever." - Elliot Mackey, 13, Anglesey
"I don't think it is fair that dolphins are taken from there natural home in the wild. Being an animal lover I think people should work together to understand animals and stop them being killed." - Eloise Strong, 10, Manchester
"It's cruel. They should not be taken out of the sea. Let them be free." - Louise, 12, Dunstable
"I think it's cruel. I always thought these dolphins were being offered a better life than they had in marine parks, or had been born in captivity." - Peter, 13, Basildon
What You Can Do
Examine your desire; how important is a dolphin encounter to you, will you accept one at any price or will you insist that the dolphins are truly wild and come to see you on their terms?. If you decide that this is the criteria, then avoid all dolphin shows, petting pools and "swim with programs." If your (or any) tour operator in your resort is offering these, complain and refuse to participate.
There are six species of dolphins frequenting the UK coastline; Bottlenose; Risso's; White-beaked; Atlantic white-sided; Common; and Striped. With some effort and some luck and a pair of binoculars, you will see truly wild dolphins! The most reliable places and populations of dolphins around the UK are in the Moray Firth, Scotland and Cardigan Bay, Wales, where they are often seen close inshore.
There are some dolphin-watching boats which go out to see dolphins. They will have a code of conduct if they are authentic, which includes keeping a reasonable distance away and parallel course to the dolphins (and if necessary switching off engines) to avoid propeller damage to the dolphins. They should have accreditation by organisations, such as the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. However please remember ALL boat traffic is an intrusion into the lives of dolphins. If you see anyone deliberately disturbing dolphins in a boat report the matter immediately to the police, coastguard and harbour master. They are breaking the law. Dolphins have protection in law from deliberate disturbance and the possibility of injury by propeller blades.
Cetacea Defence holds a dolphin camp every summer at Cardigan Bay in Wales, for Vegans and Vegetarians. Give up fish and give life to the oceans, which helps dolphins too!
For info and trips by the Friends of the Moray Firth dolphins; www.loupers.com/aboutus.html; The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society can be contacted at www.wdcs.org for details of their trips. The Marine Connection can be contacted at www.marineconnection.org as they run trips to see Funghie a wild dolphin in Eire.
"When whales and dolphins cry for their dead the oceans are filled with tears."
Produced by CETACEA DEFENCE www.cetaceadefence.org
PO BOX 78, SHAFTESBURY, DORSET