We know that dolphins are among the most dynamic and intelligent species in the world. Over the years, we have discovered that dolphins have brains that are far more complex than humans’ and learned about the incredible bond between pod family members; it is no wonder that people are endlessly fascinated by these animals. However, the downside to this fascination is that is has led us to keep dolphins in captivity.

Given the social and highly active nature of dolphins, holding them in marine parks and zoos is incredibly inhumane. Confined to a space the size of a bathtub and separated from their families, these animals are condemned to a life of monotony and boredom.

As highly self-aware beings who can comprehend their own suffering, captive dolphins are prone to depression and various other illnesses associated with extreme stress. Dolphins who are kept in marine parks like SeaWorld rarely live longer than 10 years in captivity. Former dolphin trainer, Ric O’Barry, even asserts that one of the captive dolphins in his care committed suicide as a result of her misery in this environment.

To make matters worse, many of the dolphins who wind up in marine parks are captured from the wild, typically during violent dolphin hunts like the ones that occur in Taiji, Japan.

Learning about the dark side of captivity, many animal advocates are standing up for these cetaceans and fighting to obtain personhood rights for cetaceans, effectively making holding them captive for entertainment illegal.

To illustrate the scope of our global captive dolphin epidemic, Sea Shepherd volunteer and fourth year Geography major at University of California – Berkley, Kendall Williams has developed a map to show where this industry exists.

“The map itself illustrates where the world stands,” Williams explains to One Green Planet, ” only five of almost 200 countries completely ban dolphin captivity, while more than half still use captivity for profit.”

Williams explains that even after films like Blackfish and The Cove, many people are still unaware of the plight of dolphins in the captivity industry, a fact that seems to be reflected in this map. While the majority of the map seems to be dominated by countries that have little to no regulations on dolphin capture or captivity, Williams is hopeful that this trend will soon change.

“I believe that the number [of countries that ban captivity] will increase from five within the decade as more people become aware of what’s really going on, which is the key to ending it,” says Williams.

Although we might not realize it, we can all play an integral role is changing the color scheme of this map for dolphins. By boycotting marine parks and sharing what we know about the cruelty involved with cetacean captivity, we can help shut down profit-driven marine parks and zoos.

“I hope people will see this map and realize how much of the world keeps dolphins captive for profit,” explains Williams, “but also how there are countries which provide hope for dolphins by protecting them as they would humans, and that each person can make a difference in stopping this industry by taking their money elsewhere.”

While the majority of dolphins worldwide might not be safe from the captivity industry, we all have the power to change this fact. So, be a Green Monster and share this information. It is time that we emptied the tanks once and for all!

Lead image source: Loren Szatjer/Flickr