WHAT ABOUT THE ISSUE OF CAPTIVITY RELATING IT SPECIFICALLY TO KILLER WHALES
AND DOLPHINS? WHAT'S YOUR ASSESSMENT?
Well, the Humane Society of the United States opposes keeping whales and
dolphins in captivity, for public display, for shows, because there's just no
way that a facility can provide for these animals. Their environment is so
alien to ours that in the end what you end up with, is a sterile environment
for them in captivity.
They can travel 50 to 100 miles in the day. They can live for 40, 50, 60 years
or longer, for killer whales. They live in family groups, they have a whole
ocean, and a very rich environment that the ocean provides and then what you do
in captivity because of their health concerns and because of hygiene, you put
them into a swimming pool, into a sterile environment, and it's the best we can
do for them in captivity and it's just not good enough.
WHAT ABOUT THE SONIC ENVIRONMENT FOR THEM IN THE WATER?
When you have them in a concrete tank, these are very acoustic animals which
means that they rely very heavily on their hearing. We rely so heavily on our
vision and on our sight, we can't really understand that. They have perfectly
good vision but they're completely sonic creatures, their echo location, their
passive listening is just far superior to ours. And so to put them into a
concrete environment where it is very monotone and there's simply no variety,
no texture, no substance, no depth to the environment why use their echo
location, they know where the four walls are, it's an extremely limited
There's nothing in the tank, there's no fish, there's no algae, there's no
anything and so, it's not that they can't use their echo location in a concrete
tank, it's--why use it? They know exactly the limits of their environment so
there's no point to it and I think it's a terrible thing to take away from
And, as far as the complexity as I was saying there's just no complexity in a
concrete tank. Even in a sea pen or at least the water is natural sea water
and there's maybe a little fish or two swimming through the, the pen because
of the net that surrounds them, it's not concrete, even there, they are so
restricted. There's four walls.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHALES AND DOLPHINS....
Whales is the umbrella term that includes all of the whales and dolphins and
porpoises. The Latin is cetacean and we use the word whale in English. And
underneath that are all the subdivisions and you've got the baling whales,
which are the great whales, the blue whale, the fin whale, then you've got the
toothed whales, which includes the largest, which is the sperm whale - but also
all the dolphins and porpoises. So, they're all whales.
REGARDING LIFE IN CAPTIVITY--IS THE WATER CHLORINATED?
That used to be the absolutely standard way of cleaning and keeping clean a
tank, now they've been developing new techniques and new technology because in
fact chlorine is bad for them. I mean I don't know if people really understand
that it's the same as if we lived in a tank full of chlorinated water all the
time, I mean yes they have skin and their physiology and whatever's adapted to
living in the water. But, when you put chemicals in it, it's just as
irritating to their eyes, it's just as irritating to their skin, it dries it
out and it was very harsh to them.
And the industry was aware of that so they were working --this is from the 60's
to the 70's and to the 80's--on new technologies and now they're trying to get
to say ozonation, using ozone to purify and keep bacteria and whatever out of
the water and, I understand that so far that's better than chlorine, but there
may be some side effects and drawbacks to ozone as well.
So, again I have to come back in the end, we can't provide them with an
adequate environment. You restrict them, and you immediately get a toxic soup.
You've got a problem, they live in that water all the time. So to keep it
clean you either give them the ocean which is what, of course, they should have
or, you put chemicals or some other filtering process into the water to keep it
clean and that's harsh to them, it's very hard on them.
WHAT ABOUT THE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD VERSUS THE LIFE SPAN IN CAPTIVITY OF
DOLPHINS AND KILLER WHALES?
Looking at longevity and life spans, between the wild and captivity for
whales and dolphins is kind of hard. Because whales and dolphins have only
been held in captivity - dolphins since the 30's, and whales since the 60's.
And we've only been studying them in the wild - for maybe 20 or 30 years. So
that it's imprecise at this point.
But we can say this, that looking at the entire captive population, and then
looking at some very well-studied wild populations of dolphins and whales,
killer whales-- they don't compare very favorably. You're looking at for
instance the annual mortality rate which is the best comparison, okay, looking
at how long they live is not so good because, we think they live a lot longer
than we've been studying. But we can look at them every year and see how many
die every year. And in captivity for dolphins, that's about 6%. For killer
whales it's about 6, 7% a year die of the entire population.
That doesn't sound like a lot but compared to the wild, a very well- studied
population of bottle nosed dolphins, only about 4, 4 and a half percent die
every year and for killer whales and other whale study population of killer
whales in British Columbia only 2% die every year. So the mortality rate in
captivity for killer whales is three times higher and that's the way you need
to look at it, doesn't sound like a lot when you say 2%, 6%, but that's 3 times
What's going on? What's killing these animals before their time? Females die
routinely in captivity during their reproductive years. They never do in the
wild. It's very, very rare for reproductive female to die in the wild; she'll
die once she hits menopause, same thing. So something's going on in captivity,
something is taken from them. It may even simply be something psychological,
maybe they die of boredom, frankly. I mean we really couldn't say, stress,
diseases they may not get, aggression between animals that wouldn't normally
fight. But just risks and threats that they don't face in the wild. Eating
coins, eating bad fish, things that might not happen in the wild. So
something's killing them before their time in captivity, routinely.
WHAT ABOUT THE EATING OF COINS?
Yes, that's happened. It's zinc poisoning, foreign objects, ingesting any
foreign objects. People throw things into these tanks. They think they're some
sort of good luck fountain or something.
It's just shocking to me that certain facilities in particular, just cannot
control their audience, cannot control the customers. And they don't try,
they don't police them. And so the petting pools is a particular problem,
people feed things to these dolphins in petting pools, they're not supposed to.
Or they're only supposed to feed them the fish that they're supposed to buy at
the little kiosks, but little kids, you can't control what little kids do,
people have tried to shove things down dolphins' blowholes. These animals die
from harassment and from well- meaning people who just don't know any better
and the education they're getting at these facilities isn't helping.
WE'VE HEARD CLAIMS FROM SEA WORLD AND OTHERS THAT REPRODUCTION PROGRAMS IS THE
FUTURE. AND THAT IT'S TERRIFIC AND THEY HAVE A GREAT SURVIVAL RATE.
Well in order to justify their existence, and in fact in order to avoid wild
captures, which are very bad publicity-wise, a lot of the captive facilities,
particularly the bigger, more well-endowed ones, are really pushing their
breeding programs. And for bottle nosed dolphins, they've had a pretty good
success rate lately. And yet they are still not self-sustaining, even though
they have a fairly large population in captivity that is breeding and you would
think that they could be self sustaining. And yet they're still not so despite
their claims that they're doing really well with their breeding programs for
bottle nosed dolphins. I have to question it. Because they still are not self
Also, they claim they have a very good survival rate and they should of
course, because of the intense veterinary care that's given when they give
birth and in the first few weeks of the calf's life. And yet their survival
rate for calves is really not much better or in fact in some cases is worse
than in the wild. So why is that? I mean, it's tough out there, in the wild
and the mortality rate for calves is very high. But it's about the same or
maybe only slightly better and in some cases slightly worse, in captivity. Why
is that? There's no predators, there's no sharks, there's no bad weather,
there's no problems with food, there's intense veterinary attention, why can't
they improve significantly improve, which they cannot claim on the survival
rate of calves?
So again you have to ask yourself, what's going on? And in my opinion, it's
not the calves' problem, it's the mother's problem, I think she's under
I think the stress is constant, I believe there's a constant low-level stress
put on these animals because of the confines of where they are, because of the
limitations of their lives, socially, physically. I mean she's pregnant, and,
any stress is bad for a pregnant mammal, human, dolphin, dog, cat, doesn't
matter. And I think that it doesn't help the survival of her calf that she's
under that constant stress.
YOU MENTIONED THAT CAPTURES ARE BAD PUBLICITY FOR THE BIG PARKS. WHAT DO YOU
The dirty little secret of a public display industry is that to remove these
animals from the wild is an outrageously traumatic, violent process. And, what
most people don't realize is that whales and dolphins, to a large extent,
still come from the wild-- unlike lions, tigers and bears in zoos which
basically have self-sustaining breeding populations, and have had self
sustaining breeding populations for generations. They don't catch zebras from
the wild anymore. They don't catch black bears in the wild any more, they
simply don't do that. But they do still do that routinely, because they're not
self sustaining yet and the only species that's close is the bottlenosed
So every time you see a killer whale, every time you see a false killer whale,
every time you see a Pacific white sided dolphin--and those are relatively
common species in captivity--every time you see a beluga whale--be aware that
most of the animals you're seeing were born in the wild, and were captured
And to take these animals out of the wild, you have to chase them down with
boats, you have to completely traumatize them, you have to throw a net around
them, you have to jump on them wrestle them, throw them into a boat, they're
completely traumatized, capture stress is a very real phenomenon Again, they
cannot deny it exists, and it kills. The mortality rate, post capture, is
significantly--this is a statistic thing, it's scientifically studied-- is
significantly higher for about a month, after capture, than it is at any other
time in their captive lives.
CAN YOU QUANTIFY THAT?
I'd have to go look at the papers, I can't. But for about a month to 45 days
after a capture or for that matter after a transport between two facilities,
mortality rates sharply spike in bottlenose dolphins and probably in all the
other whales and dolphins. They just haven't looked at them 'cause the sample
sizes aren't large enough. Again, remember bottlenose dolphins are the most
numerous species in captivity. So, in that month to 45 days after transport or
capture, stress and trauma cause mortality rates to spike and then they finally
go down to the 6% a year that you see under normal circumstances--quote unquote
And so obviously, and you just have to watch. I mean, this is a common sense
thing. It's not something you'd have to examine under a microscope. It's a
very common sensical, all you have to do is watch a capture, and there's plenty
of video out there. Some of these captures, they are outrageously violent.
And people don't realize that, as I said, if you go to a facility, and you see
a beluga whale, there's beluga whales at Sea World now. There's beluga whales
at the Shed Aquarium. There's beluga whales at Tacoma Zoo. Go and look and
that animal is almost certainly to have come from the wild, very recently--say
from the 80's or the 90's. Just go and look and that's what you should be
And beluga captures in particular are horrifying. They jump right on the backs
of the animals, it's called rodeo. The people who do it, who are hired to do
it, they're drinking beer and driving outboards and having a great old time.
And they're just jumping on the backs of these animals, hauling them out of the
water, totally alien event for these animals. They never come out of the water
like that, that's outrageous, drag them up onto shore and then throw them into
a tank. Now if I was that whale, I mean I'd be thinking alien abduction, total
stress and trauma, and that's what it is. Some of them die.
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THE DRIVE FISHERY IN JAPAN?
I wasn't aware of this when I first started opposing captivity, when I first
started on this job. It turns out that almost every false killer
whale--there's about 20 or 30, in captivity in the United States and in North
America. And every single one of those animals it turns out came from Japan
and they came from the Japanese drive fisheries.
A drive fishery is where a large number of vessels go out, find a pod of
whales or dolphins and circle them and with just sort of like herding them as
if the boats were horses. They push them in towards shore, they drive them
ahead of them, the animals continue to move towards shore until they beach.
They're frightened, they're terrified, they're running and they go right up
onto shore and beach themselves and then depending on what the purpose of this
drive fishery is, whether it's to remove animals for public display or in fact
to kill them, and that's more, more commonly the purpose.
Then the people get off the boats and do whatever they're going to do, if
they're going to kill them. It's a horrible blood bath, it's an absolute
slaughter, it's extremely difficult to kill a whale. And they have, especially
in Japan, this is a cultural thing, to them. Whales and dolphins are fish, the
word means fish, it's not a mammal at all to them, and it's not that they
don't realize it's in a biological sense that they're mammals but to them
they're just fish in the ocean. And they think of it that way, culturally.
And so to kill them and to do all, it's we have commercial fisheries in the
United States and they don't think about it in terms of animal welfare, we
probably should but we don't. And so to add to that of course, they aren't
fish, they are mammals. They do have large brains. They do experience
extremely strong emotions and so it's just a terrible scene. I can't stand
watching that footage any more. It's so horrible to watch them trying to kill
these animals 'cause they're so difficult to kill.
But they will remove some animals and this started, probably in the 70's and
80's, to sell them to public display facilities. Whether they're in Asia or
sometimes in the United States, as I said. Every false killer whale came from
Japan, they came from these drive fisheries. It's the only way to capture them