In a growing movement around the world, an increasing number of governments are banning dolphinariums, and the capture and display of cetaceans for entertainment purposes in their countries, with many citing the inherit intelligence and sensitivity of these creatures as the reason behind these moves.
The first country to issue such a ban was Bolivia: in 2009, the government there made history by instituting the world’s first ban on the keeping of animals in circuses and other venues for public performance, of which included captive cetaceans. In the following years, similar bans were enacted by Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, India, Nicaragua, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
India in particular went so far as to include recommendations from scientific studies as part of their ban on dolphinariums, and suggested that "dolphin should be seen as “non-human persons” and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose."
A number of other countries, including Brazil, Luxembourg, Nicaragua, Norway, and the United Kingdom, have not directly issued outright bans on dolphinariums, but have put in place regulations on the facilities that are so strict that it makes maintaining them impossible, forcing such venues to close.
In the United States, state-level legislators are also working toward closing down dolphinariums: The "Orca Welfare and Safety Act" has been put forward in California, of which would ban the venues and breeding of orcas; New York State has no orcas in captivity, but has issued a ban on facilities for that purpose; South Carolina has a ban in place banning the keeping of cetaceans; and the County Council of Maui in Hawai’i has also issued a ban on the display of captive cetaceans.
A member of the Canadian Senate has issued a bill that would phase out the keeping of cetaceans in captivity in that country, and regulate the breeding of currently captive animals. The bill would make provisions for the care of injured cetaceans recovered from the wild. This follows a recent ban issued in the Province of Ontario on the trade and breeding of orcas. A proposal for a similar bill was put forward in Mexico in 2014.
A former trainer at Marineland in Ontario, Phil Demers, commented on the Canadian bill: "I have witnessed the physiological and emotional consequences captivity imposes on these magnificent beings, and those who care for them. No living being should be forced to endure what I’ve witnessed, and it’s my hope that this bill will finally put an end to these cruel practices."
Despite public concern, the US Congress is not expected to act to help whales and dolphins because of lobbying and money from entertainment interests.