I was first introduced to the Taiji dolphin hunts my sophomore year of college. Almost nine years later, I’m still shocked that the brutal capture and slaughter of wild cetaceans continues to be so largely ignored by the general public.
Shielded from view and not easily accessible, the now infamous cove garnered national attention after the documentary The Cove premiered in 2008, but the hunts still continue.
Just the other day, a pod of pilot whales were driven into the cove, some of which were taken into captivity, many of which were slaughtered. Yesterday, 18 pantropical spotted dolphins were captured and will be transported to captive facilities around the world.
The Role SeaWorld Plays
In 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed in an effort to protect and ultimately stabilize many species that had been impacted by the whaling industry. The MMPA prohibits the capture and import of marine mammals from U.S. waters into the states.
SeaWorld, and many facilities in the U.S., reaped the benefits of the whaling industry for decades until the MMPA prohibited them from doing so any longer. Following the new regulations, they were all but forced into relying exclusively on their breeding programs.
Facilities like SeaWorld strive to educate and inspire younger generations about marine mammals, but are also unwilling to disclose the truth behind the captivity industry. Make no mistake, SeaWorld and other aquariums offering swim with dolphins activities have on occasion over the years attempted to import marine mammals under the guise of education and research.
The tides against marine mammal captivity are changing. In 2016, we celebrated some major victories for marine mammals, captive and wild. Still, as facilities remain quiet about the hunts, we must remain vigilant. The next time you, or someone you know, has plans to visit a facility outside the United States that holds marine mammals captive, bare in mine that this is likely how life in captivity began for them:
For more information or if you’re looking for ways to help: Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project