Dolphin Marine Magic? More Like Tragic

While we hear a lot about cases of animal cruelty occurring overseas, we seem to turn a blind eye to what’s happening in our own backyard. As we detailed in our last post, Australia thankfully doesn’t have any killer whales in captivity – but we have dolphins.

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“[The dolphins] are forced to perform in demeaning shows, swim with and kiss strangers, and even give members of the public ‘rides’.”  (Image from Pixabay)

Dolphin Marine Magic is currently listed as the #1 thing to do in Coffs Harbour on Tripadvisor, with 906 mostly positive reviews, hiding the dark side of reality for dolphins. The park offers activities such as swimming, hugging, playing and getting pushed through the pool by a dolphin. They also advertise ‘dolphin kisses’, with a circus style show, where dolphins perform from 2-3 shows a day during peak periods.

Not only are these activities incredibly demanding on the part of dolphins, Australia for Dolphins advocacy director Jordan Sosnowski says that there is strong evidence to suggest that the park’s chlorinated pool is too small to meet NSW standards.

Whilst chlorine may help to keep the pool clean, there has been cases of it being damaging to the health of dolphins, with dolphins at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida being unable to open their eyes and had their skin peeling off because of the high level of chlorine in their tanks.

For Australia for Dolphins CEO Sarah Lucas, a possible solution for the popular animal attraction would be a Coffs Harbour sea pen – a netted area in the ocean that provides a non-chlorinated natural habitat.

“It could still be more of an education tourism facility, but less about kissing and riding and more about conservation,” she says.

If we can’t shut down an animal attraction, the best way to go about it would be to change the way it’s operated to provide a more animal-friendly environment where they can still go about their lives without being disturbed by humans.

Hooray for Cali! But what about Australia?

You may have heard about the great news concerning killer whales (also known as orcas) in California, but just in case you didn’t, we’ll do a quick recap for you.

Nearly 2 weeks ago, California became the first state in America to ban the breeding of killer whales and the use of the animals in theatrical shows (cue the applause). Under the new law, which goes into effect next year, killer whales that were born into captivity may remain in the state, but can only be used for “educational purposes”.

This move came after the extended backlash following the documentary ‘Blackfish’ after its release in 2013. The 90 minute doco shows the practice of capturing young killer whales in the wild during the 1970s, and casts a shadow over the practices of SeaWorld and how they raise the whales in dark and cramped conditions. It also recounted the death of Dawn Brancheau, a veteran SeaWorld trainer, after she was attacked by a killer whale in 2010.

The documentary has impacted the popularity of SeaWorld dramatically, and with the passing of this new law comes a new era for the rights of marine life.

Whilst Australia doesn’t have any killer whales in captivity, we do have dolphins. Blackfish has taught us that keeping intelligent, social and migratory animals like whales and dolphins in a captive environment is cruel – so why do dolphin attractions still exist in Australia?

For a country that has a strong stance against animal cruelty, how can we judge the actions and practices of other countries when we support cruelty in our own backyard?

Be in the know so that you’re not paying for cruelty against dolphins when you travel down the coast (hint: the marine park is in Coffs Harbour). Stay tuned for our next post regarding unethical dolphin attractions in Australia!