Since March 2015, The Dolphinaria-Free Europe coalition (DFE) has been calling for an end to the keeping of cetaceans (dolphins, whales and porpoises) in captivity within Europe.

Currently, an estimated 306 individual cetaceans are kept in 33 captive facilities (dolphinaria) in 15 EU member states.Thirty-two of the facilities are licensed as zoos and yet do not comply with the requirements of the EC Zoos Directive 1999/22. The Directive’s requirements are to promote and protect wild fauna; ensure high standards in animal husbandry, and supply meaningful education about the species itself. Clearly, these requirements are not being served. But luckily, this could all change soon thanks to the committed members of the DFE.

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For the first time ever, the issue of a dolphinaria-free Europe is being debated in the European Parliament. By engaging with UK MEP, Keith Taylor, they have received the support from Netherlands MEP and Green Coordinator, Bas Eickhout to propose a discussion in the Parliament’s Environment Committee over the issue of cetaceans being kept in captivity within Europe for entertainment purposes.

If this happens, it will be the first time this issue has been discussed in the European Parliament.

Why Does This Need to Go Ahead and What Will it Take?

Dolphins living in captivity, whether captive or wild-born, suffer a great deal as a result of restricted space, limited social interaction, and poor environmental quality, among other issues. Even the largest captive facilities are still not spacious enough to fulfill the needs of cetaceans. And this lack of space can often lead to heightened aggression and abnormal repetitive behavior. In addition, most dolphins in captivity are forced to share a pool with dolphins from different regions or even different species. In recent revelations, captive cetacean facilities have admitted that their animals are given benzodiazepines, a drug that includes the human medications Valium and Xanax, which are apparently given to their animals to stabilize their mental state. This practice has been recognized as mistreatment by Italian courts resulting in the closure ofDolphinarium Rimini in 2014.

This is why the DFE is so keen on convincing MEPs that Europe needs to be Dolphinaria-Free.

“The Dolphinaria-Free Europe coalition has produced a series of documents which provide scientific evidence that demonstrates the welfare (and for some, survival) of cetacean species is compromised in captivity,” Daniel Turner, Programs Manager at Born Free Foundation explains. “Gaining MEPs support for a Dolphinaria-Free Europe is ongoing, but so far over 30 MEPs have made the pledge.”

If the coordinators of the Parliament’s Environment Committee support the proposal, a committee-wide discussion would most likely take place. Ideally this would assess and evaluate the scientific evidence that support the claims made by the DFE that the captive facilities do not comply with the EU zoos Directive.

“If their indication is that these facilities do not comply with the Directive, they will insist on actions by the European Commission and EU Member States to ensure compliance,’ says Turner.“We believe that if the requirements of existing national zoo laws are applied effectively, then many dolphinaria will close. Our solution for the failing facilities is to relocate their animals to coastal refuges, where some could be rehabilitated for release into the wild.”

How You Can Help

Do you agree that Europe should be dolphinaria-free? If so, write to your MEP (you can find their information here) and ask them to make a pledge to support a Dolphinaria-Free Europe. Quick note: MEPS are obliged to hold the DFE pledge board for a photograph. Be honest in your letter and tell your MEP why you’re against dolphins being kept in captivity.

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The next Committee meeting is on September 3rd. In order to encourage Committee member MEPs to vote in favor of the DFE, they need all the help they can get. Contact your MEP now and help make a difference for dolphins.

Lead image source: Kaz Inagaki/Flickr